Chronicles of the City of Gotham by James Kirke Paulding
CHAPTER III. An
CHAPTER V. Pure
CHAPTER VI. The
More pure azure.
CHAPTER VIII. A
CHAPTER IX. An
the only one in
all our history.
CHAPTER X. The
CHAPTER XII. In
CHAPTER XIV. A
visit and its
meditates a most
CHAPTER XVI. Our
on a voyage.
on a voyage.
THE DUMB GIRL.
TO THE RIGHT WORSHIPFUL THE
MAYOR, ALDERMEN, AND COMMON COUNCIL
ANCIENT CITY OF GOTHAM.
It hath been from time immemorial a subject of contention among the
learned, whether Osiris, Confucius, Zoroaster, Solon, Lycurgus, Draco,
Numa Pompilius, Mahomet, Peter the Great, Napoleon Bonaparte, Jeremy
Bentham, or the author of the New Charter of Gotham, was, or is the
greatest lawgiver. Without diving into the abstruse profundity of this
knotty question, I myself am of opinion that it may be easily settled,
by putting them all out of sight at once, as bearing no sort of
comparison in the art of concocting numerous laws, and multifarious
enactments, with your Honours of the Common Council. What constitutes
greatness, but bulk, numbers, and dimensions? And who of all
legislators, ancient or modern, can compare, or as the vulgar say, hold
a candle to your Honours, in the length, breadth, profundity, and
multiplicity of your laws? I am credibly informed, and do believe,
that, provided all the enactments of your Honourable Body (which, like
the king, never dieth) were carefully collected in good substantial
volumes, bound in calf, they would build another tower of Babel, and
cause a second confusion of tongues, to the utter discomfiture and
dispersion of the worthy citizens of Gotham.
It hath moreover been another question, which hath from time to time
sorely puzzled the learned, to wit, whether offences do not multiply,
exactly in proportion to the multiplication of the laws. I myself, with
due submission, am inclined to believe that such is actually the case;
seeing all experience teaches us that there is a pestilent itching in
the blood towards the practice of disobedience. To forbid children to
go ont of their bounds, is peradventure the most powerful incitement
thereto; and to caution them against dangers, is the most infallible
way of making them run their heads into them. Even so with men and
women, who are morally certain to be put in mind of the pleasure of
transgressing, by the anticipation of punishment. They actually
persuade themselves there must be something vastly delectable in the
offence, to make it necessary to denounce such severe penalties against
it. I do modestly assure your Honours, that no longer ago than
yesterday, I saw a child burn its fingers with paper, for no other
reason that I could perceive, than because the mother had threatened to
punish it if it did so. As a further illustration, I will, with your
Honours' permission, instance the example of a decent, well-behaved,
and indeed exemplary horse I once knew, who had been for years
accustomed to pasture at will, in a common appertaining to our
township, open on all sides to his excursions. Beyond this he was never
known to stray one step. But in process of time, our little
corporation, impelled by the ever busy spirit of improvement, unluckily
passed a law for enclosing this common; and from that fatal era, this
horse seemed possessed with an invincible and wicked propensity to
trespass and go astray. From being an example to all the animals of the
town, he degenerated into all sorts of irregularities; was pounded
three or four times a week; threshed out of other people's enclosures;
cudgelled from their barn-yards, and finally, as I believe, wilfully
drowned himself in a swamp, where he never dreamed of going till this
unfortunate ordinance for enclosing the common. Having thus illustrated
my position by the example of both reason and instinct, I will proceed
to the prime objects of this my humble Epistle Dedicatory, and
And firstly, my request is, that although, as I cannot deny, there
is a great plenty, not to say superabundance of most valuable works,
such as tracts, tales, romances, improved grammars, spelling-books,
classbooks, and all that sort of thing, coming out every hour of the
day; yet is there a certain class of works, to wit, those that nobody
buys or reads, that lack legislative encouragement and protection.
Besides, your Honours, even if this were not the case, your Honours
must be fully aware, that there are certain good things of which the
world cannot have too many, such as laws, colleges, paper money, and
paper books. If one law is not sufficient, the spirit of the age
requires another exactly opposite in its provisions, so that
approaching as they do both before and behind, it is next to impossible
for a criminal to escape. So if there is not sufficient liberality in
the public, or sufficient love of learned lore, to afford encouragement
to one university, the only remedy for such sore evils is to establish
another, inasmuch as that between two stools we may certainly fall to
the earth, which every body knows is the most solid foundation after
all for learning. In respect to paper money, it is quite a sufficient
indication of the necessity of having plenty of that invaluable
commodity, to instance the avidity of every body for more. Besides, if
it were not for the establishment of new banks, in a little while we
should have no paper money at all, seeing the number of old ones that
become bankrupt every day. The wear and tear of these useful
manufactories of paper, is such as to require perpetual repairs. So in
like manner with books, which being for the most part forgot in a few
weeks, in consequence of the perpetual supplies of novelty, it
necessarily becomes proper to apply new stimulants to the spirit of the
age, and development of the human mind. The insects that live but for a
day, are as the sands of the sea in number, and are succeeded hour
after hour, by new generations of insects who glitter in the noontide
sun, and perish in the first dews of the evening.
Yet forasmuch as this multiplication and quick succession of new
books, is calculated to interfere with, and circumscribe the
circulation of this my work, which I now lay at the feet of your
Honours' munificence, I therefore humbly beseech your Honours to afford
it your special protection, in the manner and form following, to wit:
First. That you will cause the finance committee to subscribe for a
thousand or (not to be particular) two thousand copies, and direct a
warrant to be issued in favour of your petitioner for the amount.
Professing himself a reasonable man, he hereby relinquishes all right
of demanding that your Honours should read them.
Secondly. That your Honours will refer the tale, entitled and called
"The Azure Hose," in this my book, to the water committee, with
directions to report definitively a favourable criticism on its merits,
some time in the course of the present century, or as soon thereafter
Thirdly. That your Honours will be pleased to refer the tale, called
"The Politician," being the second of the said book, unto the committee
on applications for office, with peremptory directions to nominate your
petitioner to some goot fat place, with a liberal salary and nothing to
do. Your humble petitioner, being by profession an anti-busybody, will
engage to neglect his duties equal to any man living, except perhaps
certain of the street inspectors.
Fourthly. That your munificent, patriotic, and law-giving Honours,
will in like manner refer the tale of "The Dumb Girl," to a special
committee of silence, with instructions to say nothing on the subject.
If a sufficient number of silent members cannot be detected, in your
Honourable Body, your Honours will find plenty in Congress.
Fifthly. That your Honourable Body will graciously instruct the
committee of arrangements for the fourth of July, and other masticatory
celebrations, not to forget to invite your petitioner to the aforesaid
jolly anniversaries, as hath been the case ever since he had the
misfortune to empty a bottle of champaigne into the right worshipful
pocket of the late worthy and lamented Alderman Quackenbush, of
Sixthly. That your munificent Honours, being as you are the patrons
of literature, the fine arts, and the like thereof, will, as an
honourable testimony to the benefits this my work is likely to shower
on the present age and posterity, confer immortality on your humble
petitioner, by voting him the freedom of the city in a gold box, taking
especial care that it be not too large to be converted into a
Lastly. That your munificent Honours will take compassion on all
idle and useful citizens and strangers, who having like your petitioner
nothing to do, are very apt to get tired; and in due time cause to be
constructed a suitable number of jolly, comfortable seats on the
Battery, well lined and stuffed, with seemly high backs, for our
special and exclusive accommodation. If your illustrious and
industrious Honours only knew how idle your petitioner is, and what a
horror he hath of a hard bench without a back, you would shed tears at
beholding him luxuriating in agony on the Battery in the beautiful
summer twilight. Many a worthy citizen, as he verily believes, hath
been driven to the most enormous excesses of tippling and debauchery,
by the utter impossibility of obtaining a moment's ease and relaxation,
upon those instruments of torture, miscalled benches, and in a paroxysm
of impatience cast himself utterly away upon the quicksands of Castle
Garden, or the Battery Hotel.
And your petitioner shall ever vote, &c.
THE CITY OF GOTHAM,
FROM THE PAPERS OF
A RETIRED COMMON COUNCILMAN.
THE AZURE HOSE.
THE DUMB GIRL.
THE AZURE HOSE.
"Sure he has a drum in his mouth!"
"Clap an old drum head to his feet,
"And draw the thunder downwards."
Beaumont and Fletcher.
There is reason in the boiling of eggs, as well as in roasting them.
It was one of those charming spring mornings, so peculiar to our
western clime, when the light, cheering sunshine invites abroad to
taste the balmy air, but when, if you chance to accept the invitation,
you will be saluted by a killing, piercing, sea monster of a breeze,
which chills the genial current of the soul, and drives you shivering
to the fire-side to warm your fingers, and complain for the hundredth
time of the backwardness of the season. In short, it was a non-descript
day, too hot for a great coat, and too cool to go without one; when one
side of the street was broiling in the sun, the other freezing in the
Mr. Lightfoot Lee was seated at the breakfast table, with his only
daughter, Miss Lucia Lightfoot Lee, one of the prettiest alliterations
ever seen. She was making up her opinions for the day, from the latest
number of the London Literary Gazette, and marking with a gold
self-sharpening pencil a list of books approved by that infallible
oracle, for the circulating library. Mr. Lee was occupied with matters
of more importance. He held his watch in one hand, a newspaper in the
other. By the way, if I wished to identify a North American beyond all
question, I would exhibit him reading a newspaper. But at present Mr.
Lee seemed employed in studying his watch, rather than the paper. He
had good reasons for it.
Mr. Lightfoot Lee was exceedingly particular in boiling his eggs,
which he was accustomed to say required more discretion than any other
branch of the great art of cookery. The preparations for this critical
affair were always made with due solemnity. First, Mr. Lee sat with his
watch in his hand, and the parlour door, as well as all the other doors
down to the kitchen, wide open. At the parlour door stood Juba, his
oldest, most confidential servant. At the end of the hall leading to
the kitchen, stood Pomp, the coachman; at the foot of the kitchen
stairs stood Benjamin, the footman; and Dolly, the cook, was watching
the skillet. "It boils," cried Dolly: "It boils," said Benjamin: "It
boils," said Pompey the great: and "It boils," echoed Juba, Prince of
Numidia. "Put them in," said Mr. Lee: "Put them in," said Juba: "Put
them in," said Pomp; and "Put them in," cries Dolly, as she dropt the
eggs into the skillet. Exactly a minute and a half afterwards, by his
stop watch, Mr. Lee called out "Done;" and done was repeated from mouth
to mouth as before. The perfection of the whole process consisted in
Dolly's whipping out the eggs in half a second, from the last echo of
the critical "done."
The eggs were boiled to his satisfaction, and Mr. Lee ate and
pondered over the newspaper by turns. At length, all at once he started
up in a violent commotion, and stumped about the room, exclaiming in an
under tone to himself, "Too bad; too bad."
"What is the matter, father?" said Lucia; "is your egg overdone, or
are you suffering the excruciating pangs of the gout, or enduring the
deadly infliction of a hepatic paroxysm?"
"Hepatic fiddlestick! I wish to heaven you would talk English,
"My dear sir, you know English now is very different from what it it
was when you learned it."
"I know it, I know it," said he; "it is as different as a quaker
bonnet and a French hat. I see I mus go to school again. You and Mr.
Goshawk talk Greek to me."
"Mr. Goshawk is a poet, sir."
"Well, there is no particular reason why a poet should not talk
like other people, at least on common subjects."
"Ah! sir, the poet's eye is always in a fine frenzy rolling. He sees
differently from other people—to him the sky is peopled with airy
"Ay; gnats, flies, and devil's darning-needles," said Mr. Lee,
pettishly. Lucia was half angry, and put up a lip as red as a cherry.
"Ah! too bad, too bad," continued Mr. Lee, stumping about again with
his hands behind him.
"What is too bad, sir?" said Lucia, anxiously.
"What is too bad?" cried he, furiously advancing towards her with
his fist doubled; "that puppy, Highfield, has not got the first honour
after all, I see by the paper. The blockhead! I had set my heart upon
it, and see here! he is at the tail of his class."
"Is that all? why father I am glad to hear it, Mr. Goshawk assures
me that genius despises the trammels of scholastic rust, and soars on
wings of polish'd"—
"Wings of a goose," cried the old gentleman. He had a provoking way
of interrupting Lucia in her flights; and, had she not been one of the
best natured of the azure tribe, she would have sometimes lost her
"He'll be home to-morrow—I've a great mind to kick him out of
"Who, dear father?"
"Why, Highfield, to be sure."
"For what, sir?"
"For not getting the first honour; the puppy, I wouldn't care a
stiver, if I hadn't set my heart upon it? And away the good man
stumped, again ejaculating, "Too bad, too bad, I shall certainly turn
him out of doors."
"Ah! but if you do, sir, I shall certainly let him in again. I shall
be glad to see my dear, good natured cousin Charles once more, though
he has not got the first honour," said Lucia, smiling.
What more might have been said on this subject was cut short, by the
entrance, without ceremony, of Mr. Diodorus Fairweather, a neighbour,
and most particular friend and associate of Mr. Lee. These two
gentlemen had a sincere regard for each other, kept up in all its
pristine vigour, by the force of contrast. One took every thing
seriously; the other considered the world, and all things in it a jest.
One worshipped the ancients; the other maintained they were not worthy
of tying the shoe-strings of the moderns. One insisted that the world
was going backwards; the other, that it was rolling onwards in the path
of improvement, beyond all former example. One was a violent
federalist; the other a raging democrat. They never opened their mouths
without disagreeing, and this was the cement of their friendship. The
mind of Mr. Lee was not fruitful, and that of Mr. Fairweather was
somewhat sluggish in suggesting topics of conversation. Had they agreed
in every thing they must have required a succession of subjects; but
uniformly differing, as they did on all occasions, it was only necesary
to say a single word, whether it conveyed a proposition or not, and
there was matter at once, for the day.
"A glorious morning," said Mr. Fairweather, rubbing his hands.
"I differ with you," said Mr. Lee.
"It is a beautiful sunshine."
"But, my good sir, if you observe, there is a cold, wet, damp, hazy,
opake sky, through which the sun cannot penetrate; 'tis as cold as
"'Tis as warm as June," said Mr. Fairweather, laughing.
"Pish!" said Mr. Lee, taking up his hat mechanically, and following
his friend to the door. They sallied forth without saying a word. At
every corner, however, they halted, to renew the discussion; they
disputed their way through a dozen different streets, and finally
returned home, the best friends in the world, for they had assisted
each other in getting through the morning. Mr. Lee invited Mr.
Fairweather to return to dinner, and he accepted.
"Well, it does not signify," said Mr. Lee, bobbing his chin up and
down, as was his custom when uttering what he considered an infallible
dictum. "It does not signify, that Fairweather is enough to provoke a
saint. I never saw such an absurd, obstinate, illnatured, passionate"—
"O father" said Lucia, "every body says Mr. Fairweather was never in
a passion in his life."
"Well, but he is the cause of passion in others, and that is the
worst kind of illnature."
CHAPTER II. Necessary to
understanding the first.
Lightfoot Lee, Esq. was a gentleman of an honourable family;
honourable, not only from its antiquity, but from the talents, worth,
and services of its deceased members, and its present representative.
He possessed a large estate in one of the southern states, but
preferred living in the city during the period in which his daughter
Lucia, who was his only child, was acquiring the accomplishments of a
fashionable education. He was a good scholar, and had seen enough of
the frippery of life to relish the beauties of an unaffected simplicity
in speech and action. He could not endure to hear a person talking for
effect, or disturbing the pleasant, unstudied chit-chat of a social
party, by full mouthed declamations, and inflated nothings, delivered
with all the pomp of an oracle. Grimace and affectation of all kind, he
despised; and among all the affectations of the day, that which is
vulgarly called a blue stocking made him the most impatient. Among the
admirers, which the beauty and fortune of Lucia attracted around her,
his most favourite aversion was a Mr. Fitzgiles Goshawk, who wrote
doggrel rhymes almost equal to Lord Byron; and whose conversation
perpetually reminded him, as he said, of a falling meteor, which, when
handled, proves nothing but a jelly—a cold, dull mass, that glitters
only while it is shooting.
Lucia, on the contrary, though naturally a fine, sensible girl, full
of artless simplicity, and free from all pretence or affectation,
admired Mr. Goshawk excessively. He had written much, thought little,
and spoken a great deal. He had been admired by unquestionable judges,
as the best imitator extant; and had passed the ordeal of the London
Literary Gazette. He was the greatest prodigal on earth—in words; and
it was impossible for him to say the simplest thing without rising into
a certain lofty enthusiasm, flinging his metaphors about like sky
rockets, and serpentining around and around his subject, like an
enamoured cock pigeon.
Our heroine—for such is Lucia, was, we grieve to say it, a little
of the azure tint. She was not exactly blue, but she certainly
inhabited that circle of the rainbow; and, when reflected on by the
bright rays of Mr. Fitzgiles Goshawk, was sometimes of the deepest
shade of indigo. Then her words were mighty; her criticisms positive;
her tones decisive; and her enthusiasm, though it might not be without
effect, was certainly without cause. At times, however, when not
excited by the immediate contact of a congenial spirit, she would
become simple, natural, touching, affecting, and lovely. Instead of
standing on stilts, striving at wit, and challenging admiration, she
would remind one of Allworthy's description of Sophia Western. "I
never," says that good man, "heard any thing of pertness, or what is
called repartee, out of her mouth; no pretence to wit, much less to
that kind of wisdom which is the result of great learning and
experience, the affectation of which, in a young woman, is as absurd as
any of the affectations of an ape." Truth obliges us to say, that Lucia
only realized this fine sketch of a young woman, when acting from the
unstudied impulses of nature, among her familiar domestic associates,
where she did not think it worth her while to glitter. Among the azure
hose of the fashionable world, she strove to shine, the sun of the
magic circle, until, like the sun, the eye turned away, not in
admiration of its blurting mid-day splendours, but to seek relief in
the more inviting twilight of an ordinary intellect. In short, our
heroine was an heiress, a belle, a beauty; and, would it were not so, a
blue stocking—or in the exalted phraseology of the day, an azure hose.
The morning after the conversation recorded in our first chapter,
Highfield arrived. The old gentleman did not kick him out of doors as
he threatened; and Lucia, though she did not therefore signalize
herself by letting him in, received him with a smile and a hand of
gentle welcome—one as bright as the sunbeam, the other as soft as a
ray of the moon. The old gentleman was stiff—very stiff; Charles was
his favourite nephew; he had brought him up, and intended, as he said,
to make a man of him.
"Well, uncle," said Charles, "I hope I did not disappoint you. I
promise you I studied night and day."
"Mischief, I suppose," said the other, gruffly.
"A little sometimes, uncle; but I minded the main chance. I hope you
"No, sir—I'm not satisfied, sir—dammee, sir, if I will be
satisfied, and dammee if I ever forgive you!" and the good gentleman
stumped about according to custom.
Charles looked at Lucia, as if to inquire the meaning of this
explosion; and Lucia looked most mischievously mysterious, but said
"Pray, sir," said Highfield, who on some occasions was as proud as
Lucifer, "pray, sir, how have I merited this reception from my
"I've a great mind to turn you out of my doors."
"I can go without turning, sir." And he took up his hat.
"Answer me, sir—are you not a great blockhead?"
"If I am, uncle, nature made me so."
"I've a great mind to send you back to college, and make you go all
over your studies again."
"What! the Greek alphabet—the Pons Asinorum— the plus and the
minus—the labour of all labours, a composition upon nothing—and the
worry of all worries, the examination? Spare me, uncle, this time."
"You deserve it, you blockhead."
"My excellent friend and benefactor," said Charles, approaching and
taking his uncle's hand, "if I have offended you, I most solemnly
declare it was without intention. If I have done any thing unworthy of
myself, or displeasing to you; or if I have omitted any act of duty,
gratitude, or affection, tell me of it frankly, and frankly will I
offer excuse and make atonement. What have I done, or left undone?"
I declare, thought Lucia, that puts me in mind of Mr. Goshawk—how
The tears came into the old gentleman's eyes at this appeal of his
"You've missed the first honour," exclaimed he, with a burst of
indignation, mingled with affection; "O Charles! Charles!"
"Indeed, uncle, I have not. I gained it honestly and fairly, against
one of the finest fellows in the world, though I say it."
"What! you did gain it?"
"And you spoke the valedictory!"
"I did, sir. The newspapers, I perceive, made a mistake, owing to a
similarity between my name and that of the head dunce of the class. I
should have written to let you know, but I wanted to have the pleasure
of telling it myself."
"My dear Charles!" cried the old gentleman, "give me your hand; I
ought to have known you inherited the first honour from your mother.
There never was a Lee that did not carry away the first honour every
where. But these blundering newspapers. The other day they put my name
to an advertisement of a three-story horse, with folding doors and
marble mantel-pieces. Lucia, come here, you baggage, and wish me joy."
"I can't, father, I'm jealous."
"Pooh! you shall love him as well as I do, before you are as old as
Hum, thought Lucia, that is more than you know, father. When Lucia
retired, she could not help thinking of this prophecy of the old
gentleman. "He is certainly handsome; but then what is beauty in a man?
It is intellect, genius, enthusiasm— mind, mind alone—bear witness
earth and heaven! that constitutes the divinity of man. Certainly his
eyes are as bright as—and his person tall, straight, and elegant. But
then what are these to the lofty aspirations of Genius? I wonder if he
can waltz. He must be clever, for he gained the first honour. But then
Mr. Goshawk says that none but dull boys make a figure at college. And
then he talks just like a common person. I wonder if he can write
poetry; for I am determined never to marry a man that is not inspired.
He is certainly much handsomer than Mr. Goshawk; but then Mr. Goshawk
uses such beautiful language! I declare I sometimes hardly know what he
is saying. My cousin is certainly handsome, but his coat don't fit him
half so well as Mr. Goshawk's."
How much longer this cogitation might have continued, is a mystery,
had not the young lady at this moment been called away to accompany her
relative, Mrs. Coates, one of the smallest of small ladies, and for
that reason sometimes called by her mischievous particular friends, in
her absence, Mrs. Petticoats. Mrs. Coates was educated in England, as
was the fashion of the better sort of colonists before the Revolution,
and is so still among ignorant upstart people, who have not got over
the colonial feeling. She had in early life married an English officer,
connected with the skirts of one or two titled families, with whose names the good lady was perfectly familiar. Her conversation, when
not literary, or liquorary as she termed it, was all restrospective,
and she talked wonderfully of Sir Cloudesley Shovel, and Sir Richard
Gammon, together with divers lords and ladies of the court calendar.
Her toryism was invincible, and if there was any body in the world she
hated past all human understanding, it was `that Bonaparte,' as she
called him. Her favourite topics were the development, which she was
pleased to call devil-opement—of the infant mind; the progress of
the age; the march of intellect, and the wonderful properties of the
steam engine, which she considered altogether superior to any man
machine of her acquaintance, except Mr. Fitzgiles Goshawk. Though in
the main a well principled woman, there was a cold, English selfishness
in her character, and a minute attention to her own comfort and
accommodation, to the neglect of other people, that effectually
prevented her ever being admired or beloved. It was a favourite boast
with her, that no nation understood the meaning of the word comfort but
the English; to which her cousin, Mr. Lee, would sometimes retort, by
affirming "it was no wonder, since no people were ever more remarkable
for attending to their own wants, at the expense of others."
Mrs. Coates sent to invite Lucia to go out with her, to assist in
the selection of a riband, which was always a matter of great delicacy
and circumspection with Mrs. Petticoats. She admired Mr. Goshawk beyond
all other human beings, because he wrote so like Lord Byron, and spoke
like a whirlwind. "Ah, Lucy," would she say, "he will make an
extinguished man, will that Mr. Goosehawk."
CHAPTER III. An Azure Morning.
After visiting three hundred and sixty-five stores, Mrs. Coates at
length selected a riband of sixteen colours, and, finding the morning
was not yet altogether wasted, proposed a visit to Miss Appleby, at
whose house one was always sure of hearing all the news of the literary
world. They found that lady surrounded by Mr. Goshawk and two or three
azures, all talking high matters. Mr. Goshawk was not only a very
`extinguished' but a very extraordinary man: he was always either
trotting up and down the streets, or visiting ladies and talking at
corners. He never seemed to study, nor did it appear how he got his
knowledge; but certain it is, he knew almost every thing. He could tell
how many rings Miss Edgeworth wore on the forefinger of her left hand,
and how many panes of glass there were in the great Gothic window of
Sir Walter's study. He knew the name of the author of Pelham— the
writer of every article in the Edinburgh and Quarterly—and the editor
of the London Literary Gazette was not a more infallible judge of the
merit of books. Indeed, as Mrs. Coates used to say, "His knowledge
seemed absolutely inchewative, and I wonder how he finds time to digest
it." Besides Mr. Goshawk, there was Mr. Puddingham, a solid gentleman,
who had so overcultivated a thin-soiled intellect, that he prematurely
turned it into a pinebarren, Mr. Paddleford, Mr. Prosser, Mr. Roth, a
grumbling sententiarian critic, and Miss Overend, secretary to a
charitable fund, and member of an executive committee of Greek ladies.
I wish my dearly beloved readers could have been present at this
congeries of stars; for it is impossible to do justice to the flights
of fancy, the vast, incomprehensible nothings, the arrogant
common-places, and the hard words, sported by our azure coterie. Here
was a dwarfish thought dressed in vast, gigantic words, and there a
little toad of an idea swelled to the size of an ox, and ready to burst
with its own importance; here a deplorable mixture of false metaphor
and true nonsense, and there a little embryo of meaning, gasping for
life and groaning under a heap of rubbish. No little sparks of
innocent, unstudied vivacity; no easy chit-chat, such as relaxes and
unbends the bow; no rambling interchange of mind or meaning; no gentle
whispers, or musical, good humoured responses. All were talking for
effect, all striving for the palm of eloquent declamation, and bending
their little, stubborn bows, as if, like Sagittarius, they were going
to bring down a constellation at the first shot.
But though I feel the impossibility of doing justice to this
superfine palaver, yet will I attempt a sketch, a shadow, a mere
outline, of some portion, if it be only for the benefit of the
unlettered spinsters who as yet, perchance, may not know what is meant
by `powerful talking.' I confess the task is appalling as it is
unpleasant; for I do honestly and openly profess myself to have a holy
horror of loud, contentious discussions, affected enthusiasm, and
ostentatious display either of wealth or talents. It is offensive in
man; but in woman, dear woman, whose office is to soothe, not
irritate—whose voice should be soft as an echo of the mountain
vales—whose wit should be accidental—whose enthusiasm, silent
expression, and whose empire, resides in her graces, her smiles, her
tears, her gentleness, and her virtues, it makes me mad. It is laying
down the cestus of Venus, to brandish the club of Hercules.
"I insist upon it, Pelham is an immoral book," said Miss Appleby:
"No man that cherishes the sacred principle, the vestal fire on which
depended the existence of the Roman state, and all the social
affinities that bind man and man together, could speak as the author
does of his mother."
"But my dear Miss Appleby," said Mr. Goshawk, "the author is not
accountable for every thing in his book, any more than a father can be
made to answer for the crimes of his children. The argument I would
superinduce upon this predication is this,"—
"But sir-r-r," said the Johnsonian Puddingham, cutting in—"sir,
the author of a bad book is guilty of a crime against society. Society,
sir, is a congeries of certain people, whose various inflections,
"My dear Puddingham," roared Mr. Roth, "the book is immoral in the
perception, conception, execution, and catastrophe; sir"—
"Sir Cloudesley Shovel," said Mrs. Coates, but what more she would
have said is in the womb of fate. Mr. Goshawk again took flight, and
"Sir Francis Bacon"—said he—
"Sir Richard Gammon" said Mrs. Coates—
"Dr. Johnson affirms"—
"The Edinburgh Review says"—
"The London Quarterly lays it down"—
"The London Literary Gazette"—screamed Lucia—
"Blackwood's Bombazine"—cried Mrs. Coates, yet louder. Here
Highfield happened to be passing by, and Lucia called him in by tapping
at the window; for she was anxious to have a little display before him.
Highfield had known them all, having visited with Lucia, during his
vacations. He held them, however, in so little respect, that he did not
mind quizzing them now and then. His entrance put an end to the
literary disscussion about Pelham, and the torrent took another course.
"What do you think of Goldsmith?" asked Miss Appleby, after the
"Goldsmid?" said he, "why really I think he was a great fool to
"Shoot himself!" screamed Mrs. Coates, "what, is he dead?"
"Yes, madam—his affairs fell into confusion, and he shot himself;
I thought you had seen it in the papers, by your asking my opinion."
It is my opinion Highfield did not think any such thing; but of that
"Lord!" said Miss Appleby, "I don't mean Goldsmid, the broker, but
Goldsmith, the poet and novelist; what is your opinion of him?"
"Why really, the question comes upon me by surprise; but I think
him, upon the whole, one of the most agreeable, tender, and sprightly
writers in the language."
"He wants power, sir," said Puddingham; "there is not a powerful
passage in all his writings."
"He wants force, sir," thundered Mr. Goshawk; "there is nothing
forcible in his works; no effort; no struggle; no swelling of the
tempest; no pelting of the pitiless storm against the indurated
feelings of the heart; no fighting with the angry elements of those
deep buried passions, which, wakened at the magic touch of the Byrons,
and the great unknowns of this precocious age; for my part, I would not
give a pinch of snuff for writings that did not awaken the passions;
Lord Byron is all passion."
"Lord Byron was a distant connexion of a relation of my husband,"
said Mrs. Coates.
"Oh all passion," cried Miss Appleby.
"All passion," cried Mrs. Overend.
"All passion," cried Paddleford.
And "all passion," echoed Lucia, Mr. Prosser, and the rest of the
"Well, but," said Highfield, "I don't see why a writer should be
always in a passion, any more than another man. I, for my part, should
not like to be always in company with a fellow who was for ever cursing
his stars, beating his breast, and talking of shooting himself; nor do
I much relish books that address themselves to nothing but our most
turbulent feelings. It is the best and purest office of works of
imagination, to soothe and mitigate those malignant passions which the
collisions of the world blow into a flame;" and, added he with, a
smile, "it is the business of a young man, like me, to listen rather
than preach. I beg pardon for my long speech."
Goshawk shrugged his shoulders, and looked at Lucia, as if to say,
her cousin Charles was an every day sort of person. Lucia thought his
sentiments tolerable enough; but what superior man ever talked such
plain, English? Goshawk was determined to put down this new pretender
"Sir," said he, pompously, "do you mean to deny that passion is the
soul of eloquence; the marrow of poetry; the rainbow which connects the
overarching skies of fancy, feeling, and imagination; the star that
flashes conviction; sprinkles the dews of heaven on the head of the
thirsty traveller; refines, delights, invigorates, and entrances; gives
to the scimitar of the poet its brightness; the dagger of the orator
its point; the ardour of love its purple blossoms; and the fire of
revenge its blushing fruits?"
"Beautiful! beautiful!" sighed Lucia, what a flow of language! What
a torrent of redundant ideas! what a congeries of metaphors!" and she
sighed again. The fact is, that Goshawk rolled out these
incomprehensible nothings with such an imposing enthusiasm, such a
rapidity of utterance, that it is hardly a reflection on Lucia's good
sense that she admired them. It is only on paper that nonsense never
"Goshawk," said Highfield, "I hate argument; It is as bad as
fighting before ladies."
"Hate argument!" cried they all together, and little Lucia among the
"I confess it; I'd rather talk nonsense by the month, than argue by
"Hate argument!" cried Mr. Goshawk, "why it is the hone on which the
imagination is brought to its brightest edge."
"What a beautiful figure," said Lucia; "he talks like a rainbow."
"Hate argument!" cried the illustrious Puddingham; "let me tell you,
sir, the great Johnson considered argument as a cudgel, with which
every man should be furnished, to defend himself and knock down his
"What a charming metaphor!" said Lucia, with enthusiam.
"Metaphor!" said Mrs. Coates, "can you see it in the daytime? Do
show me where it is, I should like to see its tail in the daytime."
"My dear aunt," said Lucia, excessively mortified, "my dear aunt you
mean the meteor."
"Child," said the other, "don't irrigate me. I know the difference
between a metaphor and a meteor, as well as you do, `the Liquorary
Gazette' could tell me that."
"Pray, sir," said Goshawk to Highfield, pompously, "what do they
learn at college?"
"Why, a little logic, and"—
"And what is logic but argument?" said the other.
"My good sir, no two things can be more distinct; I have heard
thousands of arguments in which there was no more logic than in the
couplet of the primer—
"Xerxes the great did die, "And so must you and I."
"And do you mean to deny the conclusion," said the other, with his
"Not I," said Highfield, carelessly; "I have not the least doubt of
it. I only deny that you and I shall die because Xerxes the great `did
To an enthusiastic, declamatory person by profession, there is
nothing so difficult to parry, as a little plain, direct common sense,
conveyed in simple and brief words. Mr. Goshawk was actually puzzled;
so he contented himsslf with asking, rather contemptuously,
"And is this all they teach at college?"
"By no means; I learnt exactly how many nuts and apples Tityrus had
for his supper."
Mr. Goshawk, it is believed, never heard of but four poets—the
Great Unknown, Lord Byron, Mr. Moore, and himself. He neither
understood who Tityrus was, nor comprehended the sly rebuke of the
reply. The indispensable armour of affectation is an absolute
insensibility to ridicule.
"Oh! what a beautiful alliteration," exclaimed Lucia, who was
dipping into Mr. Thomas Moore.
"A heart that was humble might hope for it
"Charming! charming!" added she, repeating it to Highfield, who
insisted that he could make a finer alliteration extempore.
"If you do, I'll net you a silk purse;" said Lucia.
"Done," said Highfield:
"May mild meridian moonlight mantle me."
"Only make a rhyme to it, and I will add a watch chain," said the
"Lovely, lively, lisping, laughing Lucia Lightfoot Lee."
"Nonsense!" said Lucia, blushing a little.
"You asked for rhyme, not reason. I insist upon it I've won." The
company was called upon to decide.
"There's no sublimity," said Goshawk.
"No powerful pathos," said Miss Overend.
"No exquisite tenderness," said Paddleford.
"No romantic feeling," said Miss Appleby.
"No meaning," said Mr. Roth, pompously.
"No connexion of sense," said Puddingham.
"It finds no He Cow in my feelings," said Mrs. Coates.
Highfield was proceeding to prove that his two lines contained all
the essentials of first rate poetry, when, luckily for his fame, a
young lady came in with a new hat, of the latest Paris fashion. The
force of nature overcame the force of affectation; and the ladies all
flocked round the new bonnet; leaving the reputation of our hero, as a
bard to its fate.
After this the conversation turned on more sublunary things.
"Do you know," said Miss Traddle, the young lady in the fashionable
bonnet, "Do you know that the Briars have hired a splendid hotel, in
"What!" said little Mrs. Coates, "do they keep tavern? Well, for my
part, I never thought them as rich as some people did. I'm sorry for
poor, dear Mrs. Briar."
"They have been presented at court!" said Miss Traddle. "What,
tavern keepers presented at court! O, but its only a French court,"
quoth Mrs. Coates, quite satisfied.
The information, however, stirred up, amongst the azures, a violent
degree of envy, at the good fortune of the happy Briars.
"For my part," said Miss Appleby, who had been abroad, but was never
presented; "for my part, I always declined going to court. Every body
told me it was a stupid business;" and she sighed at the good fortune
of the Briars.
"What a delightful thing it must be to get into the first society,
abroad," said Miss Traddle.
"Why so?" asked Highfield.
"Why, why because it is of such high rank—so refined—so
literary—so genteel—so much superior to the society here."
"Who told you so, Miss Traddle?"
"Why, Mrs. Vincent; you know she was at court."
"What, hin Hingland?" said Mrs. Coates, in astonishment.
"Yes indeed; and at the sheepshearing, at Holkham; and the lord
mayor's ball; and Almacks."
"What, Almacks!" cried Miss Appleby, and fainted.
"At Almanack's," exclaimed Mrs. Coates; "I dont believe a word of
it. Why I could never get there myself, though Sir Cloudesley Shovel,
and Sir Richard Gammon both made interest for me. Mrs. Vincent,
indeed! the daughter of a shaver, and wife of a—I don't believe a
Poor Mrs. Vincent! how they all hated her for being at Almacks.
"And why not?" said Highfield.
"Because," said Mrs. Coates, "they would'nt admit the goddess Dinah,
if she was to rise from the dead. Were you ever abroad, Mr. Highfield?"
"No, but I intend it one of these days. I wish to go there to
undeceive myself; and get rid of those ignoble ideas of the superiority
of every thing abroad inculcated by books, and by every thing we see
and hear, from our youth upwards. 'Tis worth while to go, if for no
other purpose than getting rid of this monstrous bugbear."
"What," said they all, with one voice, "you don't believe in the
superiority of foreign literature?"
"Not of the present day."
"Nor foreign manners?"
"No, nor morals either."
"Nor of French cookery?" quoth Puddingham.
"Nor of English poetry?" quoth Goshawk.
"Nor of Italian skies?" quoth Miss Overend, enthusiastically.
"Nor of London Porter?" exclaimed Mrs. Coates.
"No, no, no, no," replied Highfield, good humouredly, yet earnestly;
"as to your Italian skies, a friend of mine assured me he was three
months in Italy, and never saw a clear sky. The truth is, we take our
ideas of Italian skies from English poets, who, not having an
opportunity of seeing the sun at home, above once or twice a year,
vault into raptures, with the delight of sunshine on the continent.
Those of our countrymen, who judge for themselves, have assured me,
that in no part of Europe, have they ever seen such beautiful blue
skies, such starry fiamaments, and such a pure transparent air, as our
summer and autumns present almost every day, and every night. And as to
their Venus de Medicis, I need not go out of the room, to satisfy
myself that there is no necessity for a voyage to Europe, to meet
goddesses that shame all the beauties of antiquity;" and he bowed all
round, to the ladies, who each took the compliment herself, and
pardoned his numerous heresies, on the score of his orthodoxy in one
"I am exactly the height of the Venus de Medicine," said little Mrs.
Coates; and forgot the slander on the English skies. "You mean to go to
Europe, and visit Almanacks."
"For what, madam—to see a company of well dressed men and women,
who look exactly like ourselves; only the ladies are not half so
handsome; nor do they dance half so well? No, if I go abroad at all, it
will be to learn properly to estimate the happiness of my own country."
The ladies, though they could not get over the silly, and vulgar
notion of the superiority of society abroad, all thought Highfield a
very polite, agreeable young fellow; and Lucia found herself on the
very threshold of relishing a little common sense. The party soon after
separated; having spent a most improving morning.
 The intelligent reader need hardly be told, that he cow
is the fashionable pronunciation of echo, in England.
CHAPTER IV. Showing the great
benefits arising from having a discreet friend.
Though years bring with them wisdom, yet there is one lesson the
aged seldom learn, namely, the management of youthful feelings. Age is
all head, youth all heart; age reasons, youth feels; age acts under the
influence of disappointment, youth under the dominion of hope. What
wonder, then, that they so seldom should agree? Mr. Lee had, for more
than half a score of years, been pondering on the beautiful congruity
of a match between his daughter and his nephew. He had enough for both;
they were of a corresponding age; both handsome, amiable, and
intelligent; and they had been brought up together, until within the
last few years that Highfield remained at college. It was the most
reasonable, the most likely, and the most natural, that they should
fall in love, marry, and be happy. Therefore, he had long since
determined in his own mind, that they should fall in love, marry, and
be happy. Alas! poor gentleman; even experience had failed in teaching
him, that the most likely things in the world are the least likely to
come to pass! He communicated his plans to his friend, Mr. Fairweather:
"I intend Highfield shall live with us," said he, "and thus he will
have every opportunity to make himself agreeable."
"You had better forbid him the house," said the other.
"Forbid him the—I shall do no such thing," said Mr. Lee, somewhat
nettled; "but you are not serious?"
"Faith am I."
Mr. Fairweather was of the Socratic school, without knowing much of
Socrates; for he held the ancients in little respect.
"Have you not observed, my good friend," said he, "that matrimony
does not in general answer the great end of human happiness?"
"Now I tell you what, Mr. Fairweather, I know what you are after;
you want to catch me in your confounded, crooked interrogatives; but it
wont do, I tell you it wont do, sir," said Mr. Lee, chafing.
"No, no, upon honour, I have no such intention; only answer me
frankly. Have you not made the observation?"
"Well, then, I have," answered Mr. Lee, with some hesitation, and
feeling exactly like a fly in the anticipation of being caught in a
"Very well: don't you think this arises from their seeing too much
of each other—becoming too intimate—and thus losing the guard which
the little, salutary restraints of the constitution of society
interpose before marriage, giving way, in consequence, to a display of
temper and habits, that weakens if not destroys affection?"
"Certainly—certainly—I do," quoth the other.
"Very well: do not two young people, living together in the same
house, associating on terms of the most perfect intimacy, also see a
great deal of each other, calculated to unveil the mysteries in which
love delights to shroud his glorious deceptions? The young lady comes
down to breakfast, with her hair in papers—an old, faded, black silk
or calico frock—a shoe out at the sides, and a hole in her
stocking—she scolds the servant, and gets into a passion; for it is
impossible to be always a hypocrite—and ten to one they become so
easy together, that they will not scruple at last to contradict,
quarrel, and at length care no more for each other, than people
generally do who have had a free opportunity of seeing all their faults
at full length.
"All this is very true; but then—but go on, sir."
"Very well—the case stands thus: Marriages are seldom very
happy—why? because the parties are too much together—why? because
they live in the same house, and see all each other's faults. Ergo, if
you want two young persons to become attached, and marry, you should
take a course directly opposite to that of matrimony. Instead of
shutting your daughter and nephew up together, your best way will be,
as I said before, to turn him out of doors."
"There! there! I knew you'd have me at last; I felt you were all the
time drawing your infernal cobwebs round me. Sir, you're enough to
provoke a saint, with your Socratics."
"I never meddle with Socrates, or Socratics, my good friend; but
Socrates, notwithstanding his ignorance of steamboats, spinning
jennies, railroads, and chemistry, is upon the whole good authority in
cases of the kind we are discussing. He certainly saw too much of his
"Then you seriously advise me to turn my nephew out of doors, to
bring about a union? Why I did threaten it the other day, and Lucia
told me if I did, she would certainly let him in again."
"Why, my dear friend, here you have the whole secret of the matter.
Only persuade the young lady that you don't approve of the young
gentleman for a son-in-law, and the business is done."
"Confound it; be serious, can't you? I want your advice as a friend."
"Well, I have given it, and you don't like it. I think it best then
that you try the other extreme, and shut them up together all day in
the same room. Don't you think, my good friend, that upon the whole
much of the misery of married life arises from young people not being
sufficiently acquainted with the habits and tempers of each other
"Very well: and don't you think the best way of obviating that evil,
is to let them see as much of one another as possible?"
Here Mr. Lee made his friend a most profound and reverential bow. "I
remember," said he, "having read, in Monsieur Rabelais, that the great
Panurge, being inclined to marry, consulted divers philosophers without
success, when the thought came across him to ask the opinion of a fool,
who soon satisfied his doubts on the subject:—I shall follow his
example." Whereupon he seized his hat and stumped out of the room,
followed by his friend. But they did not separate; they stuck together
like a pair of wool-cards with the teeth standing opposite ways, and
finished the morning, the best friends in the world.
CHAPTER V. Pure Azure.
Mr. Lee, after troubling himself exceedingly in concocting and
maturing a plan to bring about a speedy union between his daughter and
nephew, at length in despair hit upon the best in the world, which was
to let matters take their own course, and leave the event to
Providence. Had he persevered in this, it had been all the better; but
I profess to have heard a vast many people talk of trusting to
Providence, who still would be meddling and putting in their oar, and
spoiling every thing. However, it is necessary to the happiness of
mankind, that they should fancy themselves the spiders that weave the
web, instead of the flies that are caught in it.
In the meantime, Lucia and Highfield were much together. Lucia liked
him extremely; she liked his good humour, his vivacity, his spirit, and
his generous forgetfulness of himself; she even thought him rather
handsome, and quite a sensible young man. But her ideas of men had been
formed from the declamations of the azure club, with which she had been
intimately associated for the last few years. It was here that she
learned to consider words of much more consequence than actions,
talents than temper, enthusiasm than common sense, and an utter
incapacity for usefulness as the best test of genius. She was often
struck with the manly sense and unpretending beauty of Highfield's
sentiments; but then they were expressed with such a nakedness, such a
poverty of words, such a natural simplicity, that all the azures
pronounced him a very common-place sort of a person, that would never
set the world crying about nothing, or be himself miserable without
"For my part," said Goshawk, "I like sublimity, obscurity, grandeur,
mistiness—I hate a speech, or a passage, that I can comprehend at the
first glance. Give me, to grope in the whirlwind; mount into the depths
of the multitudinous ocean— dive into the evanescent fleecy clouds,
that gallop on the midnight sunbeams, that sparkle in yon starspangled
attic story—and grapple with the chaos of the mind." And he sank on
the sofa, overpowered with his emotions.
"And I," exclaimed Miss Appleby, holding a smelling bottle to his
inspired nose, "I delight to fling—" here she flourished a pinch of
snuff she held between her thumb and finger right into the expanded
nostrils of the great Puddingham, who began to sneeze like ten
tom-cats; "I delight to toss back the curtains of night and
darkness—to climb those unfathomable abysses where lurk the treasures
of inspired thought, glittering like the eternal snows of the
inaccessible Andes. I love to rise on the wings of the moonbeam—sink
under the weight of the zephyr—and lose myself in the impenetrable
brightness of transcendant genius, giving to the winds their whistle,
the waves their roar, the stars their brightness, and the sun its
"And I," cried little Mrs. Coates, "as Sir Richard Gammon used to
say, prefer those soul-infusing alligators, that stir the mountain
spirit up to the dromedary of fever heat—"
"The dromedary of fever heat!" said Roth,— "what sort of a
dromedary is that?"
Lucia whispered Mrs. Coates, who replied in some agitation,
"I mean allegory and thermometer. How could I make such a mistake?
But I was carried away by the intensity of my feelings. I like—"
Each one of the party was now so anxious to tell what they liked,
that there was no one but Highfield to listen. Even Lucia mingled her
tuneful nonsense with the incomprehensible olio. There was not one of
these good people that would not have made a decent figure in life, in
their proper sphere, as indeed all persons do, had they only been
content to keep within it, and talk common sense on ordinary occasions,
refraining from affecting enthusiasm when there was nothing to excite
it. A pause at length ensuing, Miss Appleby turned suddenly to
Highfield, and asked him,
"O Mr. Highfield, I hope you admire those beautiful historical
romances, and romantic histories, that come out every day now-a-days?
What a charming thing it is to read novels, and study history at the
"Why in truth, madam," said Highfield, "I don't pretend to
criticism, and hardly ever read reviews, when I can find any thing else
"Not read reviews!"
"Not read the Edinburgh!" cried Mr. Roth, who never uttered an
opinion that he did not get from that renowned Scottish oracle.
"Not read the Quarterly!" exclaimed Puddingham, who was a believer
in the infalliability of the English oracle.
"Not read the Westminster!" screamed Miss Overend, who worshipped at
"Nor the Liquorary Gazette!" quoth little Mrs. Coates.
"Well then, let us hear your opinion, sir," at length said
Puddingham, with a supercilious air, implying that it was not worth
"Such as it is, you are welcome to it. I confess I do not agree with
those who believe that a knowledge of history may be obtained by
studying romances. The very name of romance presupposes fiction; and
how is the reader, unless already critically versed in history, to
distinguish between what is fact and what is fiction? The probability
is, that he will jumble them together, and thus lose all perception of
what is history, and what romance. He may come in time to mistake one
for the other, and confound a Waverly novel with Hume, or the Tales of
my Landlord with Plutarch's Lives."
"Ah! that Plutarch's Lives is a delightful romance," exclaimed Mrs.
"Romance!" said Highfield; "my dear madam, I am afraid you are
already in the state of doubt I hinted at. Plutarch's Lives compose one
of the best authenticated memorials of history— every word is true."
"Well," cried Mrs. Coates, "did ever any body hear of such an
imposition! Every thing is so perfectly natural, I took it for a
historical romance. I am resolved never to read another word of it."
"Many besides yourself, madam," said Highfield, smiling, "have lost
their relish for truth, by a habit of reading little else than the
daily succession of half-truth, half-fiction productions, perpetually
issuing from the press. I think I could give a receipt, which would
enable any person of ordinary intellect to concoct one of these at
least twice a year, without any extraordinary exertion."
"Oh let us hear it by all means," said Puddingham, superciliously.
"Allons," said the other. "Take a smattering of history; a little
knowledge of old costumes and phraseology; a little superstition,
consisting of a belief in clouds, dreams, and omens; a very little
invention, just enough to disguise the truth of history; a very little
vein of a story, with very little connection; a mighty hero, and a very
little heroine. With these, compound a couple of volumes of actions
without motive, and motives with or without action; adventures that
have no agency in producing the catastrophe, and a catastrophe without
any connection with the adventures. Put all these in a book, cement
them together, with plenty of high-sounding declamations, and get a
certificate from an English review, or newspaper, and you have a
romance, of which more copies will be sold in a fortnight, than of the
best history in the world in a year."
"By the by," said Miss Appleby, "have you read Moore's Life of
Byron, and heard that Murray, the great London bookseller, has
purchased the copy-right of his minor poems, for three thousand seven
"What a proof of the prodigious superiority of his genius!" cried
Miss Overend. "I have read that Milton sold his Paradise Lost for
"What a noble testimony to the wonderful developement of mind!"
cried Puddingham. "But I believe, Mr. Highfield, you don't believe in
the vast improvement of the age?" added he, in his usual pompous vein.
"Not much," replied the other; "I think the age of Milton was quite
as learned and wise as the present. If Milton were now living, an
obscure author, or obnoxious politician, I doubt whether Murray would
give him twelve pounds for his Paradise Lost, at a venture, unless
indeed he could secure a favourable review."
"What a divine misanthrope was Lord Byron?" exclaimed Miss Appleby;
"how I should glory in being loved by a man that hated all the rest of
"My dear madam," said Highfield, "wouldn't you be afraid he might
kill you with kindness?"
"I wouldn't care to die such a glorious death."
"And so uncommon too. You would be immortalized, if only on account
of its rarity."
"Oh, he was a jewel of a man! Such an inspired contempt for his
fellow-creatures! Don't you think this a certain sign of his
superiority over the rest of the world?"
"And don't you think his utter disregard of the customs and
prejudices of society a proof of his lofty genius?" added Miss Overend.
"Why no, I can't say I do. But I have no disposition to find fault
with the dead—it is against an old maxim I learned at college."
"It is much easier to give an opinion than to support it," said the
sententious Puddingham. "Pray give us your reasons, Mr. Highfield."
"I had rather not," said he; "I am somewhat tired of his Lordship,
and heartily wish his cruel biographers would let his memory rest in
peace." But they all insisted.
"Well then, since I can't get off with honour, I must not disgrace
myself before this good company. In the first place, I don't believe
his Lordship despised the world, whose applause and admiration he was
continually seeking. His contempt was sheer affectation. But if he had
really despised it, I should have a worse opinion of him."
"As how, my good sir?" said Puddingham.
"Because I consider misanthropy a proof of either weakness or
wickedness. One may become justly indifferent to this world, but to
hate it seems to me only a proof that a man is bad himself, and wants
an excuse for indulging his wicked propensities, by robbing his
fellow-creatures of all claim to the exercise of justice and
benevolence. He is like the pirate, who throws away his allegiance,
only that he may make war on all the world. To divest mankind of all
the virtues, as does the misanthrope, is to free ourselves virtually
from all moral obligations towards them."
Here the great Puddingham took an emphatic pinch of snuff; and after
sneezing violently, said, "Go on, sir; go on."
"Neither do I believe that a disregard to the common maxims of life,
is proof of a superior mind. Men of great genius, indeed, very often
pay little attention to mere fashions, and fashionable opinions,
because these have nothing to do with the settled principles of
religion or morality. But so far as respects my own reading, or
experience, I never met with a man of very extraordinary powers of
mind, who despised or disregarded those ordinary maxims of life, which
are essential to the very existence of society; much less have I met
one of this class who prostituted his genius to the injury of morals
and religion, or devoted himself exclusively to low, grovelling,
mischievous attempts to weaken their influence on mankind. I have never
found such men, for ever wallowing in the mire of sensuality, or
indulging a malicious misanthropy, by sarcasms and reasonings against
social ties and duties. Shall I go on?" said Highfield, after a pause.
"Oh, by all means," said Puddingham, condescendingly.
"The world of fashion has been pleased to place Lord Byron by the
side, if not on a level, with the great names of ancient and modern
literature; and whatever may be my own opinion, I am to estimate him by
that standard—if I please. But I don't please to do so. He will not
bear a comparison with any of these. A great genius always devotes
himself to great subjects; or if he sometimes condescends to trifle, it
is only by way of a little relaxation. We do not find Homer, Virgil,
Dante, Tasso, Milton, and others of the great `heirs of immortality,'
attempting to reach the highest summit of fame through the dirty,
winding paths of ribaldry and sensuality—converting their muse into a
pander to vice, or tilting against society and morals, and, both by
example and precept, inciting to the violation of the highest duties of
man to man, and man to woman. Their genius was nobly exercised in
celebrating the glories of their country—the triumphs of their
religion—the renown of virtuous heroes— and the beauties of
fortitude, disinterestedness, magnanimity, justice, and patriotism. We
never find the highest gift of Heaven, coupled with the lowest
propensities to profligacy and vice. It is only your second or third
rate men, who are found pleading an exemption from the duties and
obligations of morality, on the score of their superior genius. To my
taste, Lord Byron is, besides all this, infinitely below the first rank
of poets, in sublimity, invention, pathos, and especially in the power
of expressing his ideas and feelings with that happy force and
richness, combined with that clearness and simplicity, for which they
are so pre-eminently distinguished. There is, to my mind, more genius
in Milton's Comus, than in all his Lordship's poetry put together. As a
dramatic writer, he cannot compare with—I put Shakspeare, Otway,
Corneille, Racine, and Voltaire, out of the question—but with
Beaumont and Fletcher, Southern, Dryden, and a dozen others. Childe
Harold, though containing many passages of great beauty, is without
plot or invention— the mere unpurposed wanderings of a splenetic
misanthrope, kindled into occasional wrath, or enthusiasm, by the sight
of things at the road side, and apparently incapable of any other
inspiration but what is derived from sensible objects. The Corsair, The
Giaour, and Don Juan, are nothing more than the abstracted,
contemplative Childe Harold, carrying his feelings and principles into
practical application. The Childe merely thinks as a profligate—the
others act the character; the two first in heroics, the latter in
doggrel and buffoonery. They are the same person, in a different
mask—and that person seems to be Lord Byron himself. As a satirist,
he is far behind Dryden, Pope, and even Churchill; and as a writer of
quaint doggrel, he is inferior to Peter Pindar, in humour, waggishness,
and satirical drollery. And now, after uttering this shocking
blasphemy, I humbly take my leave." So saying, he seized his hat, and
retreated with great precipitation.
This was the longest speech our hero ever uttered; and if he should
take it into his head to make such another in the course of this
history, he must get one of the reporters to congress to record it, for
I demur to undertake the task in future. Never man met with so little
applause for attempting to enlighten people against their will, as did
our friend Highfield on this occasion. The whole coterie, Lucia among
the rest, was scandalized at this atrocious criticism, and separated in
confusion. Mr. Fitzgiles Goshawk escorted Lucia home, and discoursed as
seldom man in his senses, talking to a woman in hers, ever discoursed
He spoke of being sick of the world; disgusted with the
heartlessness of mankind; depressed and worn out with the intensity of
his feelings, and devoured by a secret grief, which must never be known
until he had gained a refuge from care and sorrow, in the quiet grave.
All this he uttered in language I confess myself inadequate to record;
and with an affectation that must have been apparent to any one but an
inexperienced girl. On going away he gave into Lucia's hand a paper,
accompanied by a look that went straight to her heart. She retired to
her chamber, and unfolding it with trembling hands, found the following
TO LUCIA. I've seen the rose-bud glittering on its stalk, And morning
sunbeams blushing round its head, And many a wild flower greeting my
lone walk, And many a wither'd wanderer lying dead; And I have sigh'd,
and yet I knew not why, And listen'd to sweet nature's lulling lullaby.
And I have heard the woodman's mellow song, And sober herds winding
their pensive way, And echoing cow bells, tinkling forth ding-dong,
And plowman whistling forth his roundelay— And wept to think, ah!
luckless, loveless I, I could not die to live, nor live to die! And I
have dwelt on beauty's angel smile, And smiling beauty in its winsome
glee, And ponder'd on my weary way the while; And my heart sunk, and
panted sore, ah me! And my full breast did swell, and sorely sigh; And
shudder to its core, alas! I know not why. Ah! lady list thee to my
pensive lays, And give a sigh to my sad, sighing fate; And ponder o'er
life's wild mysterious maze; And pity him who feels its stifling
weight, And sighs to think, and thinks to sigh again; And finds pain
pleasure, pleasure pining pain!
How delightful, thought Lucia, wiping her eyes; how delightful it
must be to be unhappy, without knowing exactly why! To be able to
gather the honey of sweet melancholy, from the flowers, the fruits, the
smiles, and the beauties of nature! To weep, where vulgar souls would
sport and laugh! To complain without reason; and to banquet on the
lonely musings of a heart overfraught with the exquisite sensibilities
of genius! And she sighed over the fate of this interesting man, who
was thus pining away, under some secret grief. She put the inspired
morceau into her bosom; and that day, at least, the genius of Goshawk
triumphed over the good sense, the manliness, and the wholesome,
healthful vivacity of Highfield.
I feel I ought, in justice, to apologize for my heroine, who had
sense enough from nature to have detected the mawkish folly,
incomprehensible nonsense, and silly affectation of this poetical grief
of Mr. Fitzgiles Goshawk. All I can say in her defence is, that she had
been brought up in the midst of the azure coterie, all the members of
which, were considerably older than herself; had been every day
accustomed to hear them praise Mr. Goshawk, and to hear Mr. Goshawk's
poetry. She had grown up in habitual veneration for them all; and even
the notorious blunders of her aunt, were hallowed, by coming from the
sister of her mother. Those who know the spell, which wrong precepts
and early bad examples wind about the finest understanding, and how
slowly and with what labour it emancipates itself, will, I hope, excuse
my heroine. Such as she is, I shall endeavour to exhibit her, hoping,
that time and experience will yet make her what she was intended to be
CHAPTER VI. The story hastens
The father of Lucia, though he had not become quite a sage had yet
derived considerable benefit from experience. Time is as much the
friend, as the enemy of man; and while he plants the wrinkles on our
foreheads, makes some amends, by sowing the seeds of wisdom in the
mind. Mr. Lee had come to the conclusion, that the best way of bringing
about a union of hearts, was to keep the secret of his wishes to
himself; and let Lucia and Highfield follow the guidance of dame
nature. There is something in the stubborn heart of man, and woman,
that revolts at becoming the dupe of a plan, even if it be one for
bringing about exactly what it wishes above all things. I have seen an
over anxious mother drive a young man from her house, only by
discovering a vehement desire to forward a match between him, and the
very daughter he would have selected, if left to himself. In truth, we
overdo things in this world, quite as often as we neglect what is
necessary to be done. The parent, who is perpetually watching the
little child, and cautioning it against harm, for the most part, only
excites a curious longing, to try the experiment, and judge for itself;
and so it is with grown-up children, who, like infants, are only to be
warned by their own experience; and whom perpetual cautions,
recommendations, and supervision, too often only incite to mischiefs,
of which they might otherwise never have dreamed. If there ever was a
period of the world, in which these maxims were exemplified, it is
doubtless the present; when, if the truth must be told, so much pains
have been taken, by well meaning people, with better hearts than heads,
to improve mankind, that they have at length, become, as it were,
little better than good for nothing. But let us return to our story.
Both Highfield and Lucia, it is believed, remained quite unconscious
of the intentions of the old gentleman towards them. The former, was
every day hinting, in the most delicate manner, his wish to enter upon
some honourable pursuit, by which he might attain to independence, if
not distinction. But the old gentleman always put him off, with "Time
enough, Charles—time enough; look round a little, and consider a good
deal, before you make your choice." Highfield was in a situation of
peculiar delicacy, for a high spirited, honourable man; and he
refrained from further importunity. Yet still he did not feel
satisfied; he was dependent; and if I were to mark out the dividing
line, that separates man from other men, it should be here. On one side
I would place those, whose manhood rises above the degradation of a
dependence on any thing but their own heads, hands, and hearts; and on
the other, those inferior beings, who are content to be a burthen upon
their fathers, or their friends, rather than launch into the ocean of
life, and buffet the billows.
Highfield belonged to the former class. He longed to make himself a
useful and honourable citizen, by the exercise of his talents and
industry. He had also another motive. It is quite impossible for two
persons, especially of different sexes, to live together, in the same
house, and preserve a perfect indifference towards each other. They
will either take a liking, or a decided dislike. If they are very
young, this will probably ripen into love, or antipathy. Lucia was a
little too much of the azure; but I have seen the time, not quite half
a century ago, when such a woman, would have wakened, in my heart a
hundred sleeping cupids. There was that about her, which, for want of
some other phrase, we call attractive—a charm, which, so far as I
have ever analyzed it, consists in a well made figure not tall; a face
of mild gentleness mingled with vivacity; not always laughing, nor ever
gloomy; always neat, yet never over-dressed, for no woman can ever
touch the heart, though she may overpower the senses by her splendours;
a graceful quiet motion; a soft, melting, mellow voice; and a heart,
and an understanding, the one, all nature, the other nature embellished
not spoiled, by culture and accomplishments. Such a woman, though she
may not dazzle or mislead the imagination, carries with her, the true,
moral, magnetic influence, which lurks as it were unseen; emits no
gaudy splendours, but with a mysterious inscrutable power attracts, and
fixes every kindred sympathy with which it comes in contact. Such, in
her natural state, was Lucia Lightfoot Lee, a lovely maiden, but alas!
a little too much of the azure. Highfield had not been long an inmate
of his uncle's house, before he began to feel the force of that
magnetic influence I have just described; and, the moment he became
conscious of it, his anxiety to leave his uncle, and pursue some mode
of independent existence, became stronger.
His sense of honour was not only nice, but punctilious. He was poor
and dependent; Lucia was an heiress. Had he believed it in his power to
gain the affections of his cousin, he would have despised himself for
the attempt. But he saw that her imagination, if not her heart, was
captivated by the empty but showy accomplishments of Mr. Goshawk; and
the hope of success was not strong enough to blind him to the meanness
of the attempt. He began to be much from home; and when at home, absent
and inattentive; though his natural spirits kept him from being gloomy
or unsocial. Lucia was too much occupied with Mr. Fitzgiles Goshawk and
his mysterious sorrows, to notice this; but the old gentleman began to
be fidgety and impatient at the unpromising prospect of his favourite
"What is the matter with you and Lucia?" said he one day.
"Nothing, sir," replied Highfield, "we are very good friends."
"Friends! hum—ha—but you don't seem to like each other as well
as you did—hey?
"Like, sir—uncle—I am sure I have a great friendship for Miss
"Ah! hum—ha—friendship—but don't you think her a d—d fine
"I do, indeed, sir. I think her a sensible, discreet, well behaved,
promising young lady as you will see."
"Ah! yes—sixteen hands high—star in the forehead— trots
well—canters easy—full blooded—and three years old last
grass—hey?—one would think you were praising a horse, instead of my
daughter," said the old gentleman, getting into a passion apace.
"My dear uncle, excuse me. It does not become me to speak of my
cousin in such terms of admiration as I would do under different
"Circumstances! sir—is there any circumstance that ought to
prevent your seeing like other young men, and feeling and expressing
yourself as they do?"
"Pardon me, sir; but I am just now thinking of quite a different
"You don't say so, sir! upon my word, my daughter is very much
obliged to you. But what is the mighty affair?"
"My excellent friend, don't be angry. If you knew all, perhaps you
would pity me. But I must leave you, and seek my fortune—indeed, I
must. I am wasting the best portion of my life in idleness."
"And suppose you are, what is that to you, sir, if it is my
"You have been a father to me, sir, and I owe you both gratitude and
obedience. But there are duties to ourselves, which ought to be
attended to. I am but a dependent on your bounty, after all—a
"A beggar!—'tis false, sir, you're not a beggar. But I see how it
is; you want to be made independent; you want me to make a settlement
on you; you are not content to wait till an old man closes his
"Uncle," said Highfield, with his cheek burning and his eye
glistening, "do you really believe me such a despicable scoundrel?"
"Why—no—I believe you are only a fool, that is all. But I'll
never forgive you; you have deranged all my plans; you have rejected
the happiness I had in store for you; you will bring my gray hairs with
sorrow to the grave. Yes, yes, yes, I see it, I see it—I am doomed to
be a miserable, disappointed, heart-broken old man."
"For Heaven's sake, uncle, what is the matter?"
"Matter! why the matter is, you are a blockhead; you are dumb, deaf,
blind; you haven't one of the five senses in perfection, or you might
"Known what, sir?"
"Why," roared the old gentleman, in a transport of rage, "you might
have seen that I intended you for my son-in-law—you blockhead; that I
meant to leave you and Lucia all my estate—you fool; that I had set
my heart on it—you—you ungrateful villain. But I'll be even
with—I'll disinherit you— I'll disown you—I'll send you to the
d—l, sir, for your bare ingratitude—I will."
Highfield stood a moment or two overpowered by this unexpected
disclosure of his uncle. He actually trembled at the prospect it opened
before him. At length he exclaimed:
"My best of friends, I never dreamed that such was your intention."
"Why, sir, I have cherished it, lived upon it, ever since Lucia was
born. Not know it? why what a blind fool you must be!"
"But you never communicated it, sir, and how could I know it?"
"Why, ay, that is true indeed. When I think of it, there is some
excuse for you, as I never hinted my intention. But it is all over now;
you want to leave us; and you think Lucia `a sensible, discreet, well
behaved, promising young woman,'—sixteen hands high;" mimicking poor
Highfield, as he repeated these panegyrics.
"I think her," said Highfield, "for now I dare speak what I
think—I think her all that a father could wish; all that a lover
could desire, in his moments of most glowing anticipation. I think her
the loveliest, the best, the most accomplished, the most angelic, the
"Ah! that will do, that will do, boy; you talk like a
hero—tol-de-rol-lol!" and the old gentleman cut a most unprecedented
caper. "Give me your hand boy; it's a bargain—we'll have the wedding
"Ah, sir!" said the young man, with a sigh, "I doubt—you know
there is another person to be consulted."
"Another person! who do you mean, sir?"
"Your daughter, sir."
"Bless me! that is true, indeed. I had forgot that. But I'll soon
bring the matter about. I'll tell her it is the first wish of my heart:
if she reuses, I'll talk reason to her. If she wont listen to reason,
I will talk to her like a father—I'll let her know who is master in
this house, I warrant you. I'll go this instant, and settle the
matter." And the old gentleman was proceeding to make good his words.
"For Heaven's sake, sir, don't be in such a hurry," cried Highfield
eagerly; "you will ruin me and my hopes, if you proceed in such a
hurry. Alas! sir, I fear it is too late now."
"What does the puppy mean?"
"I fear my cousin's affections are already engaged."
"To whom, sir? tell me quick, quick, sir; to whom? I'll engage her,
the baggage; I'll let her know who is who; I'll teach her to throw away
her affections without consulting me—I'll shut the door in the
scoundrel's face, and shut my daughter up in her chamber—I'll—why
the d—l, sir, don't you answer me; what do you stand there for,
playing dummy? Tell me, sir, who is the villain that has stolen my
"I do not say positively, sir, and I have no right to betray the
young lady's secrets; but I fear Mr. Goshawk has made a deep impression
on her heart."
Mr. Lee was never in so great a passion before: not even with his
man, Juba, of whom I could never make up my mind to my satisfaction,
whether he was his master's master, or which was the better man of the
two. Juba was of the blood royal of Monomotapa, a mighty African
kingdom. He had been in the family long enough to outlive three
generations, and thus fairly acquired a right to be as crusty as his
master, who, if the truth must be told, was terribly henpecked by the
royal exile. The old gentleman once had a dispute at his own table with
one of his neighbours at the south, and some words passed between them.
"Massa," said Juba, when the company had retired, "massa, we can't
put up wid dat—must call um out."
The good gentleman quietly submitted, and called out his neighbour,
who fortunately apologized.
"Icod, massa," said Juba, "we brought um to de bull-ring, didn't we?"
But to return from this commemoration of our old friend, Juba.
Mr. Lee was in a towering passion. Of all the men he had ever seen,
known, or read of, Mr. Goshawk was the one for whom he cherished the
most special and particular antipathy. He considered him an empty,
idle, shallow, affected coxcomb, without heart or intellect; a
pretender to literary taste and acquirements; a contemner of useful
knowledge and pursuits, whose sole business was to exhibit feelings to
which he was a stranger; to excite sympathy for affected sorrows; and
to impose upon the susceptible follies of ancient spinsters or
inexperienced girls. "The fellow carries a drum in his head," would he
say, "and is for ever sounding false alarms. You think he is going to
play a grand march, but it is nothing but rub-a-dub rub-a-dub, over and
"Goshawk!" at length he cried, "I'll disinherit her, as sure as I am
alive. What! that starved epitome of a wind-dried rhymester; that
shadow of a shadow of a shadow of a stringer of doggrel; that imitator
of an imitator in the sixteenth degree of consanguinity to an original;
that blower of the bellows to the last spark of an expiring fancy!
Confound me, if I had not rather have heard she had fallen in love with
the trumpeter to a puppet show."
"My dear uncle, I don't say my cousin is actually in love with Mr.
Goshawk; but I think she has a preference; a—a—at least, I am
pretty sure, her imagination is full of his genius, eloquence, and
"Genius, eloquence, poetry—pish! I could make a better poem out of
a confectioner's mottos, than he will ever write. But she shall either
renounce him this minute, or I will renounce her."
Highfield begged his uncle to pause, before he proceeded to such
extremities. He reasoned with him on the bad policy of rousing into
opposition, a feeling, which was perhaps only latent, and giving it the
stimulus of anger, by assailing it too roughly. He cautioned him
against the common error of supposing, that to forbid a thing, was the
best possible way of preventing its coming to pass; or that love was to
be quelled by a puff of opposition. He conjured him to say nothing on
the subject; to look on without interfering; to appear as if he neither
saw, or participated in any thing going forward.
"If," said he, "I am not deceived in my lovely and sensible cousin,
it is only necessary to leave her good sense and growing experience to
operate, and before long they will, of themselves, indicate to her the
error of her taste and imagination. But if I should be deceived in this
rational anticipation," added he, proudly and firmly; "if I find that
her heart is seriously and permanently attached, I give you my honour,
I pledge my unalterable determination, that I will not permit myself to
be either the motive or the instrument, for forcing her inclinations.
If I cannot win her fairly, and against the field, so help me Heaven, I
will never wear her."
"You talk like a professor, and a blockhead to boot," said Mr. Lee,
half pleased and half offended— "But hark ye, Mr. Highfield, if I
take your advice, and it turns out badly, I'll disinherit you both."
"With all my heart, uncle, so far as respects myself. Only say
nothing; do nothing; and let matters take their course. We often make
things crooked by taking too much pains to straighten them. `Let us
alone,' as the anti-tariff folks say."
"Your most humble servant, sir," quoth Mr. Lee, with a profound
bow—"I am to play Mr. Nobody then, in this trifling affair of the
disposal of my only child?"
"Only for a little while sir, when you shall resume the sceptre
"And with which, I shall certainly break thy head, if thy wise plan
should happen to fail."
"Agreed, uncle. I shall then be broken headed, as well as broken
hearted. For, by heaven, I love my cousin, well enough to"—
"To resign her to an empty, heartless, brainless coxcomb. But come,
I give up the reins to my wise Phæton, who, if he don't burn up the
world, I dare swear will set the North river on fire. Here comes
Fairweather, I will consult him, though I know the old blockhead will
be of a contrary opinion, as he always is. Go, and make a bow to Lucia;
play Mr. Goshawk, and talk as much like a madman as possible."
CHAPTER VII. More pure azure.
Highfield sought Lucia, and found her sitting at a window, which
looked out upon the beautiful bay, where the fair and noble Hudson
basks its beauties for awhile in the sun, before it loses itself for
ever in the vast solitudes of the pathless sea. It was an April
morning, such as sometimes appears in the disguise of sunshine and
zephyrs, to cheat us into a belief, that laughing jolly spring is come
again. The bay was one wide waveless mirror, along whose surface lay
here and there a little lazy mist lolling in the warm sunbeams, or
sometimes scudding along before a frolic breeeze that rose in playful
vigour, and then died away in a moment. In some places, the vessels
appeared as if becalmed among the clouds, their proportions looming in
imposing magnitude through the deceptive mists; and in others, you
might see them exhaling the damps and fogs condensed on their sails and
decks, in clouds of snow-white vapour. Here and there, you could trace
the course of a steamboat to the Kills, or the Quarantine, by a long
pennon of dark smoke, slowly expanding in the dampness of the
circumambient air, and anon see her shoot, as if by magic from the
distant obscurity. The grass had just begun to put forth its spires of
tender green; the trees to assume an almost imperceptible purple tint,
from the expansion of the buds; the noisy city lads were spinning tops,
flying kites, or shooting marbles, in the walks; and now and then, a
little feathered stranger, cheated by the genial hour into a belief
that spring was come, chirped merrily among the leafless branches.
Lucia was at the open window—her rosy cheek leaning pensively on
her snowy hand. She had just finished reading, for the twentieth time,
the pathetic and interesting effusion of Mr. Goshawk. All that she
could understand from it was, that he was very, very miserable, about
something, she knew not what; and the very mystery of his sorrows
invested them with an indescribable indefinable interest. Not but what
our heroine had her suspicions, and those very suspicions increased her
sympathy a hundred fold. "Unfortunate man!" would she say to herself,
"he is consuming in the secret fires kindled in his bosom by the
intense ardour of his genius, the acute sensibilities of his heart!"
Highfield was one of the most amiable of lovers, who I must be
allowed to say, nine out of ten deserve to be turned out of doors by
the fair objects of their persecutions, once a day at least. If they
are in doubt, they are either stupidly silent or perversely
disagreeable; if they are jealous, they look and act just like fools;
and if successful, there is an insulting security, a triumphant
self-conceit, that, to a woman gifted with the becoming pride of the
sex is altogether insufferable. I can tell a successful wooer as far
off as I can see him. He does nothing but admire his leg, as he trips
along; and you would fancy he saw his mistress in every looking-glass.
But Highfield was gay, good humoured, and sensible. He did not think it
worth while to make himself hated because he was in love; nor to
increase the preference of his mistress for another, by treating her
with neglect or ill manners. True, these things are considered the best
evidence of sincere passion; but I would advise young women to beware
of a man whom love makes unamiable; as I myself would beware of one,
whom the intoxication of wine made turbulent and quarrelsome. Both love
and wine draw forth the inmost nature of man.
"Well, Lucia," said Highfield, with a familiar frankness, which his
intimacy and near relationship warranted—"Well, Lucia, have you begun
my watch chain yet?"
"No," said she, sighing.
"Well, my coz, when do you mean to begin it?"
"I don't know," replied she languidly—"one of these days I
"What ails you, Lucia—are you not well?"
"Not, not very—I have got a sort of oppression, a heaviness, a
disposition to sigh; something here," pressing her hand on her bosom,
from whence peeped forth a little corner of Goshawk's effusion.
Highfield saw it, and the blood rushed into his cheeks; but he quelled
the rising fiend of jealousy, and asked, in a tone of deep interest, if
she would not take a walk with him on the Battery. She declined, in a
tone of a quiet indifference.
"Shall we go, and call on Miss Appleby?" Lucia was all life and
animation. She put on her hat, her shawl, and the thousand et-ceteras,
that go to the constitution of a fashionable lady; and tripped away
like a little fairy. She expects to meet Goshawk there, thought
Highfield; but he neither pouted, or was rude to his cousin on the way.
Nay, he exerted all his wit and pleasantry, and before they arrived,
Lucia thought to herself she would begin to net the watch chain that
very evening. They found all the azures, except Mr. Goshawk, assembled
at one of the drawing room windows, Mrs. Petticoats and all,
clamourously reading, and clamourously applauding, some verses, written
on a pane of glass, with a diamond pencil. The reader shall not miss
them. They ran as follows:
Curs'd be the sun—'tis but a heavenly hell! Curs'd be the moon,
false woman's planet pale; Curs'd the bright stars, that man's wild
fortunes tell; And curs'd the elements! Oh! I could rail At power, and
potentates, and paltry pelf, And, most of all, at that vile wretch,
myself! What are the bonds of life, but halters tied? What love, but
luxury of bitter woe? What man, but misery personified? What woman,
but an angel fall'n below? What hell but heaven—what heav'n but hell
above? What love, but hate—what hate, but curdled love? What's
wedlock, but community of ill? What single blessedness, but double
pain? What life's best sweets, but a vile doctor's pill? What life
itself, but dying, o'er and o'er again? And what this earth, the
vilest, and the last, On which the planets, all their offals cast?
"Oh! doubly curs'd—
Here, it would seem, the bard stopped to take breath; overcome,
either by his own exertions, or finding there was nothing left for him
"I never heard such delightful swearing," cried Miss Appleby.
"What charming curses!" cried Miss Overend.
"What touching misanthropy!" cried Mr. Paddleford.
"What powerful writing!" cried Puddingham.
"What glowing meteors!" cried Mrs. Coates, determined not mistake
meteors for metaphors, this time.
Lucia said nothing; but the tumults of her bosom told her nobody
could write such heart-rending lines but Mr. Goshawk.
"Don't you think them equal to Lord Byron?" said Miss Appleby, to
"Very likely, madam, Lord Byron wrote a vast deal of heartless
"Heartless fustian!" screamed Miss Appleby, and "heartless fustian!"
echoed the rest of the azures, with the exception of Lucia, who
determined not to commence the watch-chain that evening, if ever.
"Fustian! do you call such poetry fustian; so full of powerful
writing, and affording such delicious excitement? For my part, I can't
live without excitement of some kind or other," said Miss Overend.
"What kind of excitement do you mean, madam," said Highfield,
mischievously, "the Morgan excitement or the Stephenson excitement?"
"Phsaw, Mr. Highfield, you are always ridiculing sentiment. I mean
the excitement of powerful writing, powerful feeling, powerful passion,
grief, joy, rage, despair, madness, misanthropy, pain, pleasure,
anticipation, retrospection, disappointment, hope, and—and—every
thing that creates excitement. By the by, they say the author of
Redwood is coming out with a new novel. I wonder what it is about."
"I don't know," answered Highfield; "but I will venture to predict
it will be all that is becoming in a sensible, well bred, well
educated, delicate woman, neither misled by a false taste nor affected
"Pooh!" said the great Puddingham, "there is no fire in her works."
"Nor brimstone either," said Highfield.
"Nor murder," said Miss Appleby.
"Nor powerful writing," said Miss Overend.
"Nothing to make the heart burst like a barrel of gunpowder," said
little Mrs. Petticoats.
"Perhaps so," replied Highfield, "but a book may be worth something,
without either fire, murder, or gunpowder in it."
Here the discussion was cut short by the entrance of Mr. Goshawk,
who bowed languidly to the company, walked languidly to a sofa, and,
flinging himself listlessly down, leaned pensively upon his head, and
sighed most piteously. Mr. Goshawk was one of the most extraordinary
men living. He hated the world, yet could not live a day without
attracting its notice in some way or other; he sighed for solitude,
yet took every opportunity of being in a crowd; and though confessedly
the most miserable of mortals, was never so happy as when every body
was admiring his secret sorrows. He had thrown himself accidentally by
the side of Lucia.
"Ah! Mr. Goshawk," said she, "we've found you out!"
Goshawk knew as well what she meant as she did herself; but he
looked at her with the most absent, vacant, ignorant wonder it was
possible for any man to assume, as he answered.
"Found me out, Miss Lee?"
"Yes, yes; the verses—the beautiful verses, written with a diamond
pencil, on the pane of glass: you need not deny it; nobody but yourself could have written such powerful poetry."
"No, no; you can't deny it, Mr. Goshawk; the foot of Hercules is in
it," cried Miss Appleby; and the opinion was echoed by all present.
Whereupon Mr. Goshawk acknowledged that, being that morning depressed
by a dead weight of insupportable melancholy, he had walked forth into
Miss Appleby's drawing room, and, finding no one there, had relieved
his overfraught heart, in those unpremeditated strains. The azures
applied their cambric handkerchiefs to their eyes, and pitied poor Mr.
Goshawk, for labouring under such a troublesome excess of sentimental
The conversation then took a different turn; interrupted
occasionally by the assurances of Mr. Goshawk, that his verses were all
written on the spur, and under the impress, of the moment; though we,
as authors knowing the secrets of all our brethren, are ready to make
affidavit, that he never wrote a line, without cudgelling his poor
brains into mummy, and spurring his Pegasus till his sides ran blood.
"So there is a new Waverly coming out," quoth Puddingham, who was
deep in booksellers' secrets, "I am told, one of the principal
characters is Charles the fifth."
"What he that was beheaded at Whitehall slip?" asked Mrs. Coates.
"No, my dear madam," said Highfield, "he that resigned his crown
before he lost his head."
"How I delight to read novels in which there is plenty of kings and
queens; 'tis so refined and genteel, to be in such good society," said
"I never get tired of kings and queens, let them be ever so stupid,"
said Miss Appleby; "every thing they say is so clever, and every thing
they do, so dignified."
"Well, for my part," said Highfield, "to me nothing is so vulgar an
expedient of authorship, as that of introducing the reader into the
society of great names, and making them talk, not like themselves, but
like the author. In this manner, Rochester becomes a dull debauchee;
Bolingbroke, a prosing blockhead; and the greatest wits of the age, as
stupid as the writer. For my part, I am tired of seeing this vulgar
parade of regal and titled realities introduced as shadows to our
acquaintance; and have it in serious contemplation, unless I should
happen to fall into a cureless, causeless melancholy, to write a novel,
in which the principal actors shall be gods, and the common people,
kings and queens: Queen Elizabeth shall lace Juno's corsets; Alexander
the great trim Jupiter's whiskers; Mary queen of Scots enact a
beautiful bar-maid; and Charlemagne, a crier of Carolina potatoes."
"Then you don't mean to recognise any distinctions in mere mortal
society?" asked Lucia, amused in spite of herself with this banter.
"Why, I don't know. I have some thoughts of a sort of geological,
instead of genealogical arrangement, to consist of the primitive, the
secondary, and the alluvial. The fashionable primitives shall be those
who carry their pedigrees back into oblivion; whose origin is entirely
unknown; the secondary will consist of such as have not had time to
forget their honoured ancestors; and the alluvial, composed of the rich
washings of the other two, which have so lately made their appearance
above water, that there has been no time for them to become barren and
good for nothing." Highfield was now called off by Miss Appleby.
Lucia appeared so much amused with this whimsical arrangement, that
Goshawk, who, though the most abstracted of human beings, never for a
moment forgot himself or his vanity, thought it high time to interfere.
"A clever young man that—a very clever young man," drawled he,
"quite pleasant, but superficial; no energy, no pathos, no powerful
passion, no enthusiasm, without which there can be no such thing as
genius. Give me the man," cried he, with a fat and greasy flow of
sonorous words, "give me the man to whom the croaking of a cricket is
the signal for lofty meditation, and the fall of a leaf, a text for
lone and melancholy abstraction; one who is alone in the midst of a
crowd, and surrounded when alone by myriads of sparkling imps of
thought, millions of beings without being, and thoughts without outline
or dimensions; one to whom shadows are substances, and substances,
shadows— to whom the present is always absent, the future always
past—who lives, and moves, and has his being, in an airy creation of
his own, and circulates in his own peculiar orb—who rejoices without
joy, and is wretched without wretchedness; one, in short, who never
laughs but in misery, or weeps except for very excess of joy—who
lives in the world, a miserable yet splendid example of the sufferings
endured by a superior being, when condemned to associate with an
inferior race, and to derive his enjoyments from the same, mean,
miserable, five senses." Here he sunk back on the sofa, overpowered by
"What a being!" thought Lucia, and fell into a painful doubt,
whether such a being would ever condescend to think of her a moment,
present or absent. "He is above this world!" said she, and sighed a
hundred times, to think of a man being so much superior to his
CHAPTER VIII. A great falling off.
Returning home, our heroine threw herself on a sofa—be pleased to
take notice she did not sit down, for that would have been unworthy a
heroine— she threw herself on a sofa, and passed some time in
sympathizing with the sufferings of Mr. Goshawk. She sighed for an
opportunity of communing with him on the fathomless abyss of his
mysterious miseries, and wished—Oh! how devoulty wished herself the
privileged being, destined at last to be the soother of his sorrows,
the sharer of his thoughts, the companion of his reveries, and the
better half of his abstract, inexplicable mystifications. "Would that I
knew, that I could comprehend, what it is that makes him so wretched,"
thought Lucia, little suspecting that the poor gentleman would have
been puzzled himself to tell her.
She was roused from this painfully pleasing reverie, by something
which attracted her attention on the sofa. She looked at it and rubbed
her eyes— and rubbed her eyes and looked at it again. The thing was
too plain, she could not possibly be deceived. She started up and rang
the bell furiously, and the servant not coming sooner than it was
possible for him to come, she rang it again still more emphatically. At
length Juba made his appearance, with his usual deliberation. An
African gentleman of colour seldom indulges himself by being in a hurry.
"Who did that?" asked Lucia, pointing to the sofa.
Juba advanced, looked at the spot, and began to grin with that
mortal display of ivory peculiar to his race.
"Ah! Massa Fairwedder, Massa Fairwedder, he droll man, he."
"What! had Mr. Fairweather the impudence"—
"Ees, ees, he here dis morning," replied Juba, grinning more than
Lucia immediately summoned the whole household, consisting of a
troop of coloured ladies and gentlemen, whose principal business was to
make work for each other. Ever since Lucia became azure, they had been
pretty much suffered to do as they pleased, and it was their pleasure
to do nothing but copy their young mistress in dress and behaviour as
much as possible. They had a dancing master in the kitchen, to teach
them waltzing, and talked seriously of a masquerade, or a fancy ball at
least. The black cook was something of an azure herself, read all those
useful little tracts which teach servants the duties of masters and
mistresses, wore prunelle shoes, and cooked dinner in an undress of
black silk; the coachman, almost as sentimentally miserable as Mr.
Goshawk; and Lucia's maid, a great admirer of Miss Wright. The kitchen,
as Dolly cook said, was quite a literary emporium, and there was always
a greasy Waverly lying on the mantel-piece, with which Dolly
occasionally regaled herself, while boning a turkey. The consequence of
all this was, that Mr. Lee's house was at sixes and sevens. There was
neither master nor mistress; the ceilings of the parlour and drawing
room were festooned with cobwebs; the curtains got the jaundice; the
rats overrun the kitchen, and performed feats worthy of rational
beings, if you could believe Dolly; and it was impossible to sit down
on a chair or sofa, without leaving the print of the body in the dust
which covered them. Poor Mr. Fairweather, who knew the value of
neatness, and prided himself on his unspotted, unsullied black coat,
had often carried off a tribute from the parlour, and that morning
determined to give Lucia a broad hint. Accordingly he took his
forefinger in his hand, and wrote in the dust that embellished the
sofa, four large letters, almost six inches long, that being put
together constitute an abominable word, than which there is none more
horrible and unseemly to the ear and eye of womanhood. It was the sight
of this that interrupted the deliciously perplexing reverie of our fair
heroine; that caused her to ring the bell with such emphasis; to call
up the men-servants and maidservants; to set the brooms, brushes, mops,
and pope's heads going; and finally to declare war against rats,
spiders, dust, and cobwebs, and to turn the whole house upside down.
The servants wished Mr. Fairweather in Guinea, as soon as they traced
the origin of this tremendous reform; the cook talked about the black
skin and white skin being equal in the eyes of the blind; the coachman
sighed forth the unutterable agonies of a life of dependence; and the
little jet black waiting maid talked elegantly about the rights of
women. Old Juba insisted on his massa calling out Mr. Fairweather; but
on this occasion, the old gentleman demurred.
"Mr. Fairweather is my best friend, you blockhead."
"Guy, massa! dat any reason why you should'nt blow he brain out?"
From that time forward, Mr. Lee's house became exemplary for its
neatness, such is the magic influence of a word to the wise! There was
such a reform in the whole establishment, as hath never yet been
brought about in the state, by any change of administration, since the
establishment of the republic.
And here, I feel it incumbent on me to offer to my azure and
fashionable readers, something like an apology, for the falling off,
in the high tone of my narrative, they will not fail to observe in this
chapter. I feel I ought to solicit their pardon, for having thus
descended abruptly to such low and vulgar matters as housekeeping;
which ought to be for ever beneath the attention of all true lovers of
literature and intellectual development. It is true, the goddess of
wisdom once disputed with Arachne the management of the needle; but
this was in times long past, and never to return, before the
preternatural development of the mind, the invention of flounces, or
the supremacy of dancing-masters. I am aware, also, of the happy
influence of a neat, well arranged, and well conducted household, in
rendering home agreeable, and luring us from a too zealous pursuit of
the pleasures of the world; and I am not ignorant how important it is
for the mistress of a family to know when things are well done, though
it may not be necessary or becoming, to do them herself. But I know,
what is of far more consequence than all this, that if I prose any
longer, on such low subjects, the young gentlemen professors of nothing
will inquire into my pedigree; and the azure angels, who preside over
the decisions of all the gallant, fashionable critics, will pronounce
me a horrid bore—a bore! better were it to be convicted of robbing a
church, or swindling to the amount of a few millions. I should then
create a great public excitement; and rally round me, not only all the
anti-masons, but an army of sympathetic pettifoggers besides.
CHAPTER IX. An adventure, being the
only one in all our history.
As the spring advanced, and the flowers, zephyrs, and warbling
birds, invited out into the country for air and exercise, our heroine
was accustomed to ride on horseback, than which there is nothing more
healthful, graceful, and becoming in a woman, provided always she will
only ride like a gentlewoman; that is moderately. On the contrary,
there is nothing which gives me more heartfelt discomposure, as a
gallant bachelor, than to see a woman galloping through the streets,
like a trooper—her feathers flying, her ribands streaming to the
wind, her riding habit disordered, and herself bouncing up and down, as
if she had a cork saddle under her. It is not only unseemly and
unfeminine, but dangerous, in our crowded streets; and nothing has
preserved them from the most fatal accidents, but the sagacity of their
horses, which doubtless, knowing the precious burthens they carry, are
particularly careful neither to be frightened, or to make a false step.
Were I to assume the office of mentor to the young fellows of the day,
I would strenuously advise them to beware of a woman that always rides
on a full gallop. Depend upon it, she will have her way in every
thing; and that though she may not actually lose the bit, she will be
apt to take it between her teeth; which is almost as bad.
On these occasions Lucia was generally accompanied by Miss Appleby,
Miss Overend, or some one of her female friends, and escorted by
Highfield and Goshawk, with the latter of whom our heroine generally
fell into a tete-a-tete in the course of the ride. It was the third of
May—I recollect it perfectly—when the little party of equestrians
set forth on a morning ride, all gay and hopeful except Mr. Goshawk, to
whom the smiles of nature were a disquiet, and the music of spring a
discord. He was more than commonly miserable that day, having observed
that Lucia began to sympathize deeply in his sorrows.
They navigated their course safely through the various perils of
Broadway for some distance. They met a company of militia with more
drums than privates, and commanded by three brigadier generals; they
encountered the great ox Columbus dressed in ribbons; they stood the
brunt of kites, earts, bakers' wagons, Broadway accommodations,
charcoal merchants, orange-men and ash-men, and beggar-women. In short,
they escaped unhurt amid the war of sights, the eternal clatter and
confusion of sounds, the unexampled concatenation of things, animate
and inanimate, natural and unnatural. The horses, indeed, sometimes
pricked up their ears, and wondered, but displayed no decided symptoms
of affright, until, as ill luck would have it, just as they came to
the corner of Chamber street, a little woman about four feet high
issued suddenly forth from a shop, with a bonnet, of such alarming
dimensions, and singular incongruity of shape and decoration, that
Lucia's horse, who had never been at a fancy ball, could stand it no
longer. He wheeled suddenly round, against Mr. Goshawk's steed, and
reared. Mr. Goshawk was partly in a brown study, and partly so
miserable that he did not, as he afterwards affirmed, exactly recollect
where he was, or what was the matter. At length, he cried out, "Whoa!"
with such a lofty and poetical fervour that he frightened the horse
still more. He now reared worse than ever, and Lucia, must have lost
her seat in a few moments, when Highfield who was a little in advance
with the other ladies, being roused by Goshawk's exclamation, looked
round, and was at the horse's head, on foot, in an instant. "Keep your
seat if you can," said he as he seized the bridle. A desperate contest
now commenced between him and the horse, who continued rearing and
plunging, now galling Highfield's body and limbs with his sharp hoofs,
and wrenching him violently about from side to side. Lucia still kept
her seat though almost insensible to where she was, or what was going
forward. It was a struggle between an enraged unruly beast, and a cool
determined man. Highfield still clung to the bridle, close to the
horse's head, until watching his opportunity, he seized the animal by
the nostrils, with so firm a gripe, as to arrest his rearings for a
moment, during which he seemed tremblingly to own a master. At the same
instant a gentleman assisted Lucia to dismount, which she had scarcely
done, when the animal, as if recovered from his astonishment made one
plunge, struck his hoofs into Highfield's breast, threw him on his back
insensible, and dashed away full speed. At the same moment Mr. Goshawk,
who had been exceedingly active in protesting against the inhumanity of
the crowd, which stood looking on without being able to render any
assistance, was likewise so overcome by his exertions that he lost his
memory, for a little while, after which he poured forth so eloquent a
felicitation on Lucia's escape from a danger, which, however slight,
had harrowed up his very soul, that she remembered it long after, when
she ought to have been remembering something else.
Highfield was brought to himself, after some considerable delay,
and, with the young lady, conveyed home, in a hackney coach. Goshawk
did not accompany them; his senses were so shattered, and his feelings
had so completely overpowered him, that he was incapable of any thing,
but the indulgence of high wrought sentiment.
CHAPTER X. The two Cupids.
The warm hearted Mr. Lee, when he came to learn the particulars of
the transaction recorded in our last chapter, hugged Highfield in his
arms, called him his son; and came very near letting out the secret of
his long cherished intentions to his daughter. He then fell upon the
corporation, that unfortunate pack-horse, on whose back is saddled all
the abominations which petulance conjures into existence, or the itch
for scribbling, lays before the public.
"Confound the stupid blockheads!" exclaimed he. "They make laws
against flying kites, exploding crackers, sticking up elephants over
people's-heads for signs, and cumbering the streets with empty boxes
and barrels; and yet, they allow the women to wear bonnets that
frighten horses out of their discretion! For my part, I don't see the
distinction, not I."
"But my good friend," said Mr. Fairweather, who had called in to
make his friendly inquiries— "I differ with you—I think there is a
marked distinction between a fine lady, and an empty barrel."
"Oh well, if we differ, there is an end of the argument," quoth the
"An end of the argument! why it is generally the beginning."
"Very well—very well—I have no time to argue the question now."
Mr. Fairweather took up his hat, and went away by himself, pondering
in his mind, what could have come over his old friend. It was the first
time, since he knew him, that he had declined an argument.
Lucia and Highfield met the next morning; the former languid with
her fright, the latter pale, and stiff with his bruises. Lucia was
netting a purse. She thanked him, in simple, unaffected, heartfelt
terms; for it is only affectation that deals in pompous phrases. The
tears came into her eyes, as she noticed his wounded hands, and
perceived, by the slight variations that passed over his countenance,
that every motion was acccompanied with acute pain.
"I shall never forget," said she, "that you saved my life."
"Nor I," said Highfield, and these two simple words were all he
uttered on the subject.
Lucia was mortified that he should have missed so good an
opportunity of being eloquent. She had been brought up with people who
considered words of more consequence than actions; and a fine speech,
in celebration of an exploit of heroism far superior to the act itself.
Lucia threw the purse carelessly into her work basket; and just then,
Mr. Goshawk entered, to inquire how she did, after the accident. Then
it was, that our heroine, was lifted off her feet, by a flow of
inspired eloquence, which cast into the shade, the manly simplicity of
poor Highfield's courage and self-possession. He spoke of his horror at
her danger—the overpowering feelings that absolutely bewildered his
mind, and prevented his thinking of any thing but himself, and his
intense sufferings. He detailed his waking thoughts on coming home; and
his terrible dreams, in which he saw her struggle with indiscribable
dangers, and performed acts in her behalf, that no waking man ever
dreamed of. In short, he made himself out the hero of the affair, and
before he had finished, actually persuaded Lucia, that honest Highfield
was but a secondary person in the business.
"Behold," said he, "how I employed the melancholy, soul subduing
hours of the last night; for you may suppose, I did not close my eyes."
"Oh, then I suppose you dreamed with your eyes open," said
"A man need not shut his eyes to dream, Mr. Highfield," quoth
Goshawk, pompously. At the same time presenting Lucia with a perfumed
sheet of paper. She opened it, and read, with sparkling eyes— "The
wings of my heart are far o'er the blue sea"— "If the wings of his
heart are far o'er the blue sea, "Permit me to ask where its legs ought
to be." hummed Highfield, as he sauntered out of the room.
"He has no more sentiment, nor feeling, enthusiasm, or genius,
than—than"—Lucia could not hit upon a comparison expressive of her
"Alas! the more happy he!" sighed Fitzgiles Goshawk. "He knows not
what it is to eat the bitter aloes of disappointed hopes, to dream of
impossible attainments, to stand on tiptoe, catching at
incomprehensible chimeras; to place his heart on what it dares not
contemplate, except at an unapproachable distance that mocks even the
imagination to despair; to die of disappointments, in what, from first
to last, he knew was out of his reach; to pass from the sight of men,
the light of the sun, and the perplexities of the world, and leave
nothing behind him but an empty name. Oh! Lucia, pity me," cried he,
taking her hand.
"I do, indeed I do," cried Lucia, overpowered by this picture of
mysterious griefs. "I pity, and would relieve you if I knew how. Only
tell me what is the matter?
"I love, and I despair!"
"Whom?" said Lucia, with a palpitating heart.
"One throned in yon galaxy of stars, brighter than Venus, and purer
than the milky way—one, of whom I wake only to dream, and dream only
to awake in astonishment at my presumptuous visions. One so far above
the sphere of my aspiring hopes, that like the glorious sun, I only
live in the consuming rays of her beauty, without daring to look in
the full face of her brightness, lest I should be struck blind."
"Why this must be a queen at least," said Lucia, blushing with a
"The queen of love and beauty," replied Goshawk, delighted at his
happy rejoinder. They remained silent a few moments, it being
impossible to descend from the heights of sentimental twaddle to the
level of ordinary matters, without stopping to take breath by the way.
"Tell me, Miss Lee, tell me what is love," said Goshawk at length,
with a languishing air.
"I don't know," replied Lucia, blushing.
"Shall I answer for you?" said Highfield, who entered at that
moment. Lucia started a little, and Goshawk looked rather foolish.
"Love is a fantastic assemblage of the follies of childhood and the
passions of age. A little, scoundrel hypocrite, who, while rolling his
hoop or chasing a butterfly, disguises under the innocent sports of a
boy, the most selfish and dishonourable intentions. He is the deity of
professions, disguises, affectation, and selfishness; is never
satisfied unless acting in opposition to reason, propriety, and duty;
and is pictured a child, because he studies only his own gratification,
and never keeps his promises."
Goshawk seemed not to admire this sketch, but for some reason or
other, he was not so ready with a flight as usual. Lucia took up the
defence of the little godhead.
"Oh, what a monster you have made of him!" said she.
"But there is another and a nobler love," resumed Highfield, with
more enthusiasm than he had ever before displayed in the presence of
his cousin, "there is another and a nobler love, the divinity of
rational and virtuous man. A grown up, finished being, that knows no
other wish than the happiness of its object; that neither lies, nor
feigns, nor flatters, nor deceives; that is neither degraded by
disappointment, nor presumptuous with success; that, while it respects
itself, still pays a willing homage, and offers at the feet of its
mistress what it never sacrificed to fear or favour, to the claims of
man, the temptations of interest, or the tyranny of the passions; its
own free will and its power of independent action."
The tones of Highfield's voice were such as I have sometimes, but
rarely heard, in my pilgrimage through this world of jarring discords;
they were those that give to nonsense the charm of music, and to
precept the magic of persuasion. He spoke with a manly simplicity, a
chastened feeling, a firm and settled earnestness, which hypocrisy
always overleaps, and affectation only caricatures. Even childhood
comprehends it, and the votaries of bad taste at once recognise it for
truth. The exertion of speaking, or it may be the glow of his smothered
feelings, had banished for a moment his ashy paleness, and brought a
fire into his cheek that added to his natural attractions. He stood
with one arm in a sling, partly leaning against the mantel-piece, and
there was in his whole appearance an evident struggle between the
weakness of his body and the strength of his feelings.
Neither Mr. Goshawk nor Lucia made any reply. The former was cowed
by the majesty of honest, unaffected manhood, giving utterance to its
feelings with the simple energy of deep conviction; the latter felt as
she had never felt while Mr. Goshawk was pouring out his sentimental
flummery. She knew she was listening to one in earnest, who was either
describing what he felt at the moment or was capable of feeling. "He
certainly must be in love with somebody. Some little red-cheeked,
scrub-nosed, country damsel, I dare say;" and she turned up her pretty
Grecian nose at the poor girl. The perplexity of guessing who this
somebody was, occupied her some time, insomuch that she entirely forgot
Mr. Goshawk's piece of poetry and his beautiful language.
"I beg your pardon," said Highfield, "for coming here to interrupt
you and make speeches. Your father requested me to say he wishes to
speak with you, cousin."
Goshawk took his leave; Lucia sought her father, and Highfield his
bed; for he was really much indisposed with his bruises.
CHAPTER XI. Sounding without
Mr. Lee was a man of great courage and little patience. He
considered the heart of a woman like one of his eggs, that could be
boiled in a minute and a half; and took it for granted, Lucia must be
deeply in love with Highfield since the adventure of the fashionable
bonnet. Accordingly he determined to sound her forthwith, that no time
might be lost. He might as well have sounded the bottomless abysses of
lake Superior; for the heart of a city belle in love is as
unfathomable, if not as pure, as they.
"Well, Lucia," said he, as she entered his library, "how do you feel
after your fright?"
"Oh, quite well, sir."
"Hem—I wish I could say as much for Highfield. The doctor says he
has some fever, and talks of bleeding—the blockhead—why didn't he
do it before?"
"Bleeding!" cried Lucia, and her heart beat a little, "I hope it
will not be necessary."
"Hem—yes. Ah! girl, you owe much to that excellent young
"I am sensible of it, sir, and feel it at the bottom of my heart."
"Do you?—do you? my dearest girl, at the bottom of your heart?"
"Indeed I do, sir; I shall never cease to be grateful, as long as I
"My father has often told me, gratitude was the rarest of our
feelings, and the most short-lived; but I shall carry mine to my grave."
"Ay—yes—yes; gratitude is a very good thing in its way;
but—but there are so many ways of showing it. Now how will you show
"Why, I haven't studied my part yet," said she, smiling; "I must
trust to the honest dictates of my heart, to time, and circumstance, to
show me the way."
"Pshaw! time and circumstance! I believe the d—l is in you this
"I believe the deuce is in you this morning, father," said Lucia,
smiling; "for I can't understand you."
"Very well, very well; but I want to know how you will go about
showing your gratitude—hey?"
"Why, father," said Lucia, "if he is sad, I will play him merry
tunes; if he is cheerful, I will laugh with him; if he is cross, I will
bear with him. I will sympathize in his misfortunes, rejoice in his
happiness, nurse him if he should be sick; if you turn him out of
doors, as you once threatened, I will certainly let him in again; and
if he should ever chance to want (what I trust in God he never will)
your favour and protection, I will try and be to him your humble
representative." If Lucia meant to say more, she was stopped by an
unaccountable huskiness in her throat, that took away her breath.
"Ah! that will do—that will do!" cried the old gentleman, highly
delighted, "and so you will love him—hey, girl? none of your
wishy-washy gratitude— love him with all your heart—hey?"
"With all my heart, and as an only and beloved brother."
"Brother! did you say?—a fiddlestick; I—I don't want you to love
him as a brother, I tell you."
"As a cousin then, sir."
"No; nor as a cousin, nor a second cousin, nor an uncle, nor
grandfather, nor grandmother either," cried Mr. Lee, in wrath, and
gradually raising his voice till he came to the climax of a roar.
"Ah! is it so?" thought our heroine, as at length she began to
comprehend the drift of the impatient old gentleman; and she drew the
impenetrable cloak of hypocrisy closely around her, at the same time
conjuring up to her aid the guardian pride of female delicacy, which
shrinks from the first avowal of love, and more than shrinks from
owning it without the surety of answering love.
"May I go, sir?" said she, after a pause, "I promised to walk out
this morning, with my aunt and Mr. Goshawk."
"Confound Mr. Goshawk! may ten thousand of his bad verses fly away
with him to chaos and old night, where they came from!"
"Well, father, then I will make an apology and stay at home."
"No; go where you please, and do what you please; I shall never be
able to make any thing of you."
"Nothing, dear sir, but what I am—your dutiful and affectionate
daughter;" and she bowed, and left Mr. Lee to congratulate himself on
the progress he had made.
The reader will doubtless have observed, that during the whole of
the foregoing dialogue, Lucia spoke in simple, natural language,
without a single touch of azure. The reason is at hand. She felt what
she was saying; and true feeling never declaims. What it has to say, it
says with a simple, brief directness; as a man who is earnest in the
race never stops to gather flowers by the way.
Our heroine retired to her chamber, to think. A new futurity was
opened before her; for until this interview with her father, she never
dreamed of his wishes or intentions in favour of her cousin. The truth
is, her imagination was occupied with Goshawk. But now it was necessary
to determine on some line of conduct, in her future intercourse with
Highfield. A very convenient, proper, family match! thought she; I am
rich, and he poor. I have no doubt he is very much in love with me;
for I never heard of a young gentleman that was deficient in duty and
affection on such occasions! And then her heart smote her with a pang,
for such a thought. No, no; I will say that for my cousin, I do believe
he would not marry, if he did not love me, to gain my fortune or please
my father. But then every body will say he only married me for my
money; and the mortification of such a suspicion would be intolerable.
I dare say this plan has been in agitation ever since I was born; and
what a business kind of business! he is to open his mouth, and I am to
fall plump into it, like a great overripe apple, without even being
shaken a little. No, no, my dainty cousin, that wont do. And besides,
what will Miss Appleby and all the rest say, if I throw myself away on
a man of no literary reputation; who never figured in albums, or wrote
verses on Passaic falls; who does nothing common like an uncommon man;
and who, I confess, though he acts sometimes like a hero, talks just
like every body. Ah! said she, sighing, I wish my money bags were in
the Red sea, and then I could tell whether I was beloved for myself or
them. This was a very foolish wish of our heroine; for notwithstanding
her beauty, her charming temper, and her natural good sense, if her
money bags had been in the Red sea, ten to one her admirers would have
gone there to fish for them, instead of adoring her beauty and good
qualities. After a vast many pros and cons, Lucia determined, in the
true spirit of a woman with more than one admirer, to play them off
against each other; to put to the test the ardour and stability of
their passion, by trying what the patience of mortal man is capable of
enduring. Mr. Goshawk was still paramount in her imagination; though
since the adventure of the ride, her feelings were somewhat enlisted on
the side of Highfield. She was satisfied in her own mind, that the
former was deeply enamoured of her, else, why should he be so eloquent
on all occasions, on the subject of hopeless affection? With regard to
the other, she was somewhat, or rather indeed altogether, uncertain;
for Highfield had too much pride, as well as delicacy, to thrust his
feelings in the face of the world on all occasions. I will try him,
thought she. If he is only seeking me for my fortune, there will be no
harm in making him a little miserable; and if he really loves me for
myself alone, I can always make him amends for his sufferings. She had
an appointment with Mr. Goshawk for a walk, and was expecting him every
moment, when the servant came in with an apology, that he was so
indisposed as not to be able to wait on her.
"Poor man," thought Lucia, "his mind is preying on his delicate
frame! the light is too intense for the lamp that contains it. What a
misfortune it is to be born with too much sensibility!
CHAPTER XII. In which the history
is perfectly becalmed.
Our heroine remained in a state of mind requiring motion. She felt a
sort of fidgeting impatience of repose which almost always accompanies
the little perplexities and uncertainties of life. She took out the
silk purse to net; but the thought struck her that Highfield might be
too much elated if he saw her thus employed. She took up a book, and
though it was one of the very latest fashionable works, she actually
yawned over the first chapter. She then as a last resort took up a new
garment, that had just been sent home by the mantua maker; which
fortunately gave a new turn to her ideas. The sleeves were exactly the
thing. She retired to her mysterious boudoir, and arrayed herself like
King Solomon in all his glory. She put on a pink hat with a black
velvet lining, and a feather that swept the ground; she put on her
white satin cloak that hid her pretty figure as effectually as a sack;
and she adorned her pretty ancles with spatterdashes. She arrayed
herself with the Foulard silk; the Foulard damasce; the gros des Indes;
the embroidered collar, cape, Fichu, Alavielle and Fiorelle; the Blonde
gauze, and the Decoupe gauze, the fancy ribands, trimmings, &c. &c.
&c.; in short she made herself one of the most beautiful fancy articles
ever imported, before she had done. She then looked into a full lengh
mirror and saw that all was good; for her hat was mighty to behold; her
shoulders broader than those of Sampson with the gates of Gaza on his
back; and not the African Venus herself—but hush my muse nor meddle
too deeply with mysteries unknown to the sacred nine!
Highfield met her just as she was going forth into the Aceldama, the
field of blood, the Flanders of the new world—Broadway—where more
whiskered dandies have been slain outright by stout broad shouldered
ladies, and the empire of more hearts contested than in all the
universe besides. He stood in speechless admiration, for his cousin was
really so beautiful, that it was out of the power of milliner or mantua
maker to make her look ugly.
"Will you take me with you?" said he.
Lucia felt like the ox-eyed Juno, in her glorious paraphernalia.
The most unpropitious moment for approaching a belle is doubtless
when she is full dressed for Broadway. She treads on air; she sees
herself reflected in the mirror of her imagination at full length; the
rustling of silks whispers an alarum to her vanity; and the waving of
feathers is the signal for conquering the world.
"Will you take me with you?" repeated Highfield.
How handsome and interesting he is, thought our heroine as she
looked at herself in the glass. If he only had whiskers he would be
"I am afraid," said she, "the weather is too keen for you this
morning; you look pale, and don't seem well;" and nature forced her
voice into a tuneful sympathy.
"Oh, I never was better in my life."
"Well, it is not my business," said she, again assuming the
woman—"If you choose to risk it, 'tis nothing to me." And the father
of hypocrisy himself could not have put on a more freezing
indifference. "I am going to call on Miss Appleby; my aunt promised to
meet me there."
"I'd rather go any where else with you."
"Oh, yes, I know you don't like literary people."
"I don't like pretenders to literature."
"Then let me go by myself," said she abruptly.
"No—I'll go, and take the mighty Goshawk by the beard, e'en though
he were a metaphor, as saith our azure aunt."
This sally made Lucia smile, and restored her good humour, which
indeed was never long away. Her anger was never chronic, and so much
the better. An unforgiving woman is worse than a man that forgives
every body. Lucia put her arm within Highfield's, and they went away as
gay as boblincons in a clover meadow. Lucia forgot for a moment her
plan of making him jealous; but there was a little imp of mischief at
her elbow that soon put her in mind of it again.
The gentle reader need not expect to find our little history a
Newgate chronicle of bloody, remorseless crimes; or a chaotic
congeries—as an azure would call it—of accidents and incidents,
piled one upon the other with a profusion and confusion, mocking both
art and nature to arrange into order, propriety, or probability. He
will we hope take our word, when we assure him upon our honour, that
nothing in the whole art and mystery of works of imagination, is more
vulgarly easy than to weave adventures without probability; to paint
characters without nature or consistency; to elevate into astonishment
by incidents entirely unexpected because there is nothing to render
them credible; to delineate the excesses of unbridled and ferocious
depravity; the crimes of unqualified wickedness; and the daring pranks
of lawless savages, as little restrained by the behests of the law, as
is the author by the canons of taste and criticism. Such indeed is the
utter recklessness with which the truly fashionable and intellectual
writers and readers in this age of developement, plunge into seas of
blood, and revel in sights and scenes that even the case hardened
sympathies of vulgar ignorance, would shrink from contemplating in real
life; such, in short, the rage for mere excitement in the prevailing
taste for literature, that it would give us little surprise to see a
writer administering to this ravenous appetite, by introducing a
sentimental Caliban, or a Sycorax dying for the love of a well dressed
dandy. Adventures and incidents, unconnected and without motive, have
taken place of delineations of the windings of the human heart, the
intricacies and vagaries of passion, and the nice and wary caution,
with which the authors of a better period, traced every effect to its
cause, every cause to its effects. They introduced no incident to
excite a mere vulgar surprise, nor any adventure, but what was a spoke
in the wheel of the story, accelerating its progress, and rendering the
denouement more probable. They delighted not in the naked, unadorned,
unmitigated personification of crimes. They found human nature a
mixture of good and evil; human actions springing from the like mixture
of motives, and so they endeavoured to delineate them. Their design was
to paint men, not monsters; and such we confess at humble distance is
ours. The enlightened reader must therefore, not expect to find in our
story, either the excitement of blood, murder, adultery, and crime, nor
to detect us wallowing in the very mire of sentimental sensuality. Such
feasts as these are not we confess to our taste, and what we do not
relish ourselves we disdain to palm upon others, even though it might
peradveture be for our temporary advantage. We close these remarks, by
cautioning the reader against believing for a single instant that they
have the most remote reference to the excellent Sir Walter, whose
genius is almost sufficient to atone for the crying offences of a
thousand bad imitators.
CHAPTER XIII. More Azure.
Highfield and our heroine dropped in upon the whole azure coterie,
at Miss Appleby's, with the exception of Mr. Fitzgiles Goshawk, whose
absence afforded an excellent subject for declamation; especially when
Lucia informed the company he was indisposed.
"Poor fellow, his sensibilities will be the death of him at last,"
cried Miss Appleby.
"Unfortunate youth," said Miss Overend, "his wretchedness is
mysteriously affecting; by the by, can any body tell what makes him so
"I dare say he is suffering the pangs of disappointment," said
"Disappointment in what?" said she briskly.
"Oh, why you know genius is always hoping impossible things, and
chasing the rainbows of imagination— ever anticipating unreal joys,
and reaping real sorrows. I knew a man of genius, once, a great poet,
who pined himself into a decline, because he could not get his whiskers
"La!" said Miss Overend, "I dare say that is the cause of Mr.
Goshawk's interesting melancholy, you know he has no whiskers."
"I dare say," quoth Paddleford, a sighing, whining, cork-hearted
pretender to sentimental rouéism; "I dare say the poor fellow is in
love with a married woman."
"Has he been to Italy?" said Miss Overend, "if he has, I could
almost swear he had fallen in love with a beautiful nun he saw through
the grates of a convent."
"I shouldn't be surprised," said Mrs. Coates, "If he had committed
"Murder!" screamed the other ladies.
"I mean an innocent, disinterested, sentimental murder, committed in
a moment of irrigation, without any intention—what do you think,
"I rather think it must be the whiskers, as my friend Puddingham
suggested. I feel myself in the same predicament, and am sentimentally
dead, for want of a muzzle a la mode de bison."
Lucia privately resolved that Master Highfield should pay for making
sport of the hallowed and mysterious sorrows of Mr. Goshawk. She knew
or thought she knew their origin; and to have the perplexities of
pining, speechless, inexpressible passion associated with a bison's
whiskers! It was too bad; and her cousin should pay for it dearly, if
he possessed the least spark of feeling. Highfield took his leave soon
after, excusing himself on the score of some business. But the truth
was, he felt himself somewhat indisposed.
"Well, Lucia," said Miss Appleby, "I suppose you had a delightfully
affecting interview with your cousin, after the affair. What did he
"Nothing," said Lucia.
"Nothing; what a stupid man! Why Mr. Goshawk talked of his
excruciating feelings on the occasion a whole hour, till he brought
tears into my eyes. Oh, such a beautiful flow of language, such
powerful delineations of passion! I wish you had heard him."
"Mr. Highfield is a very common-place man," said Puddingham,
pompously. "You might stand under a gateway a whole day in a shower,
without hearing him say any thing remarkable."
"What is a chance act of gallantry and presence of mind, compared
with the genius that immortalizes it in words that burn and thoughts
that freeze? For my part, give me the man that talks eloquently," said
"Yes," said Miss Overend; "mere physical courage and animal strength
may do great things; but to say great things, requires
the aid of a lofty, inaccessible genius, which nine times in ten is so
immersed in its own sublime chrysalis, that it can't get out in time to
do any thing in a case of emergency."
"To be sure," said Mrs. Coates; "a great action is often
frustificated by a splendid chaotic congeries of intellectual vapours,
that produce a deflection of the mind from the object before it."
Lucia, though a little affronted with Highfield, was too generous to
suffer him to be undervalued in this manner, especially in his absence.
"And so, my good friends," said she, "you would persuade me that I
am more indebted to Mr. Goshawk, for his elegant description of my
danger, than to my cousin, who rescued me from it. I might have been in
my grave by this time, but for my cousin."
"But then what a beautiful elegy Mr. Goshawk would have written, my
dear. You would have been immortalized. Only think of that!" said Miss
"Yes," replied Mrs. Coates; "what is the trumpery pain of
anneeheelation to the eternal immortality of living in immortal
verse—of floating down upon the stream of oblivion, into the regions
of never dying brightness!" Mrs. Coates waxed more azure every day.
"My dear aunt," cried Lucia, interrupting the good lady, who was
losing herself in a Dismal Swamp of meteors, as she called them; "my
dear aunt, I am aware of the superiority of words over deeds, in an age
of development like the present, and that he who performs a great
action is but an instrument in the hands of the man of genius who
celebrates it in never dying verse. I know too that it is mere
selfishness on our part, to feel grateful for an action done in our own
behalf, instinctively perhaps, and without one single good feeling on
the part of him who performs it; but still there is something in the
gift of life that seems to deserve at least our gratitude." This was
the most azure speech our heroine had made since her accident.
"The gift of life!" cried Paddleford; "what is life, that we should
be grateful for it? A scene of disappointment without hope, and hope
without disappointment; a chapter whose beginning is tears, whose last
verse is written in blood; a mirror, which presents to us every day a
new wretch in the same person; a spectral shadow, ever changing, yet
still the same; a long lane, whose windings end where they began, and
begin where they end; a rope twisted with our heart-strings, embalmed
in our tears, and having at one end a slipping noose, with which all
mankind are at last tucked up!"
"Oh!" groaned the whole azure coterie, horrorstricken at this
"What soul-subjewing retrospections!" exclaimed Mrs. Coates. "What a
happy devil-opement of mind!"
Lucia was overawed and silenced by the eloquence of Paddleford, and
the suffrages of all the company. She became doubtful, to say the
least, as to the propriety of feeling gratitude for such a worthless
gift as that of life, and relapsed into a decided preference of the
gift of speech over the capacity for action. She looked on the great
Paddleford as a most sublime mortal; for such indeed is the intrinsic
dignity of that courage which defies death in a good cause, that even
the affectation of contempt of life imposes a feeling of respect upon
the inexperienced. Lucia never dreamed that Paddleford came near
breaking his neck a few nights before, by jumping out of a second story
window on a false alarm of fire; or that while he affected a contempt
for life, he never met a funeral or heard a bell tolling, without a fit
of the blue devils.
"What a beautiful dress you've got!" said Miss Overend to Lucia.
The sublime contempt of this life now suddenly gave place to an
admiration of the things of this life. The whole party gathered round
our heroine; and "where did you get this?" and "la! how cheap!" and
dissertations on the relative excellence of gros de Naples, gros des
Indes, cotepaly, foulard Damasce, and Palmerienne, gradually restored
them to a proper feeling of resignation to the evils of this world.
CHAPTER XIV. A visit and its
When Lucia came home, she found Highfield had been obliged to lie
down; and learned from Mr. Lee, that the doctor was under great
apprehension that he had received some serious injury internally, from
the violence of his exertions or the kicks of the horse, in the
adventure of the ride.
"I am sorry to hear it," said our heroine, and her heart echoed the
The old gentleman was of that order of human beings whom sorrow
always makes angry and fretful, instead of gentle and submissive. He
had a most confirmed and obstinate impatience of grief. He was angry
with Highfield for being sick; he was angry with the doctor for not
having foreseen he would be sick; and he was enraged with Mr.
Fairweather, first because he made light of the matter, and then, to
please his friend, hinted about a rapid decline. Now, he could not
scold Highfield for being sick; nor the doctor, for he was absent; nor
Mr. Fairweather, because he was not present: so he set to work, and
scolded Lucia. Nine times out of ten we are not angry at the thing we
pretend to be; we attack the substance under covert of the shadow.
"Oh yes!" said he in reply to Lucia's gentle yet sincere expression
of sorrow, "Oh yes! you are very sorry, I dare say. You take him into a
cold northeast wind; you drag him about to milliners' shops, from one
end of the town to the other; and then you are very sorry he is sick,
when you yourself have made him so."
"Dear father, how cross you are to day! I am sure I did not take him
out. I wanted him to stay at home; but he said he was perfectly well,
and would go with me. I am sure I couldn't help his going."
"Not help his going!"
"No, sir; how could I?"
"Why you might have knocked the puppy down."
Lucia made it a point never to laugh at her father; but it must be
owned he sometimes put her to hard trials.
"If my father had taught me to box, instead of play the piano, I
might have made the attempt," said she, smiling.
"Very well, very well; you have made him sick, now try if you can't
cure him. Go and make him some barley-broth."
"I? why, my dear father, I don't know how to make barley-broth."
"Well then, go and make him some caudle."
Lucia had never heard of caudle, except in association with certain
matters, and blushed like a rose.
"But I don't know how to make caudle, any more than barley-broth."
"Ay, yes; women know nothing worth knowing, now-a-days. They can
dance, and play the harp, and criticise books, and talk about what they
don't understand; but if you want them to do a little thing for the
comfort of a man's life, or the assuaging of his pains, oh! then it is,
my dear sir, I don't know how to do it. I wish I had sent you to a
pastry cook's, instead of a boarding school. I dare say, if it was Mr.
Goshawk, you could talk him well directly. Go in then and talk to your
cousin a little."
"My dear sir, you know"—and she stopped short, in a flutter.
"What, you wont go and see the youth who is lying perhaps on his
death-bed, of wounds received in your service?"
"The customs of society, sir,"—
"Ah! the customs of society—there is another wooden god to bow
down to! You can twine your arms in a waltz with some bewhiskered
foreign puppy; you can go to a masquerade, or mix in midnight revels,
with a thousand promiscuous sweepings of the universe, and yet—oh,
the customs of the world! they make it a crime to visit the sick in
their melancholy chambers, and pronounce it ungenteel to know how to
administer relief to their sufferings!"
"Dear father, I would do any thing for the relief of my cousin;
"Oh, ay—any thing. You can't do what the customs of society
permit, and you wont do what they do not sanction. And yet it is but
the other day you made such a fine speech: `If he is sad, I will play
him merry tunes; I will sympathize in his sorrows, and rejoice in his
happiness; I will nurse him when he is sick; and if, as you once
threatened, you should turn him out of doors, I will certainly let him
in again."' And the old gentleman caricatured her tone and manner most
unmercifully. "You know every thing but what you ought to know," said
"There is at least one thing I do know," replied the daughter; "that
it is my duty to obey the wishes of my father, when no positive duty
forbids it. I will go with you, sir." And together they went into the
sick man's room.
My friend, Mr. Lee—for there once lived such a man, and he was my
friend—my friend, Mr. Lee, knew no more how to manage a love affair
than his daughter did of the manufacturing of caudle. Had the romance
of Highfield and Lucia been in the best possible progress, he would
have gone nigh to throw it back a hundred years. The old gentleman had
yet to learn, that to make a woman do a thing against her will, is like
shoving a boat against a strong current; she will move a foot or two
slowly while the impulse lasts, and come back like a racehorse, a
hundred yards beyond the starting pole. And yet he ought to have known
it; for his wife had verified its truth often enough to impress it on
Lucia entered the chamber of the invalid, somewhat against her will,
and consequently but little disposed to sympathize with him. Indeed she
felt extremely awkward; and this was another reason why she was not in
the best possible humour. Not that she wanted a proper feeling of the
benefit conferred by her cousin, but the truth is, the indiscreet
disclosure the old gentleman had made of his intentions, caused her to
shrink from an act, which might be considered as amounting to a
sanction of his wishes on her part. Add to this, I believe if the truth
were known, she felt some little apprehension that Mr. Goshawk might
not approve of the procedure.
The conduct of Highfield contributed to render her still more
ungracious. He was no knight errant, yet the sight of our heroine on
this occasion threw him into something of a paroxysm, not unworthy of
Amadis de Gaul. He ascribed the visit in the first place to her own
free will, and augured the most favourable results, from the sympathy
which a sight of his weakness, would create. He was wrong in both
cases; for in love matters the imagination is every thing; and seeing
is not believing. But his great error was in discovering so much
gratitude for the visit, that Lucia became alarmed at her own
condescension, and determined to retrieve her error by behaving as
ungraciously as her conscience would permit. In pursuance of this truly
womanly resolution, she conducted herself with a most admirable
indifference, inasmuch that the good gentleman her father, who had
hardly patience to wait the boiling of an egg, became exceedingly
restive. He gave his daughter divers significant looks; favoured her
with abundance of frowns; and held up his finger from time to time so
emphatically, that Highfield soon comprehended the whole affair. He
perceived that Lucia had come unwillingly, and from that moment felt
nothing but mortification at her having come at all. The whole affair
ended in making Lucia dissatisfied with herself; Highfield worse than
before; and Mr. Lightfoot Lee most intolerably angry. So much for
obliging a young lady to do what she has no inclination for. Our
heroine, having paid a short visit, retired, leaving the uncle and
The old gentleman sat with his nether lip petulantly protruded over
the upper one; his eyebrows raised, and his forehead wrinkled. The
young man reclining on his bed supported by pillows.
"My dear uncle," said he, "why did you bring my cousin here against
"'Sblood sir," cried the other in a fury—"I suppose you mean to
cut my throat for trying to do you a favour."
"I am sensible of your kindness, but, my dear sir, you don't go the
right way to work to serve me."
"O no, not I truly; I am an old blockhead; I am always in the wrong;
I do nothing but mischief, and merit nothing but reproaches and
"Ah! sir, if you only knew my heart!"
"Plague on your heart, I don't believe you have any, with your
infernal coolness and patience. When I fell in love, I mounted my
horse, rode one night forty miles to visit your aunt; came to an
understanding the very first visit; and went home irrevocably engaged.
I hate suspense; I always did hate it and always shall. But you,
sir—damme, you sir! you and Lucia will make a hard frost between you.
She is all affectation, and you all patience. A patient lover—pooh!"
"But, my dear sir, why don't you let matters take their course, as
"O certainly, sir, certainly—wait patiently, until I see my
daughter run away with Mr. Fitzgiles Goshawk, because he has such a
flow of words, and uses such beautiful language; or 'till I die of old
age, and Lucia becomes a pedantic old maid. I dare say if I only have
patience and live till I am fourscore and upwards, I may have the
particular satisfaction of seeing either the world or your love affair
come to an end."
"But my dear uncle—"
"Yes, yes—I am an old blockhead, that's certain. 'Tis true I was
educated at the university; I travelled over half Europe; I have been
a justice of the peace; a common councilman; secretary to a literary
society; judge of a race-course; and chairman of a committee in
congress. I am not quite threescore, to be sure; but I have had some
little experience; know a B from a bull's foot, and a hawk from a
handsaw. But I am an old blockhead for all that, and must go to school
to a conceited graduate from a country college, and a sage young lady
just from the boarding school; yes, yes, yes—" and the good gentleman
walked about the room with his head down and hands behind him.
"Oh, sir, I entreat you to spare me."
"I wonder," continued Mr. Lee communing with himself, "I wonder how
people managed to live sixty years ago. No steamboats, nor spinning
jennies, nor railroads, nor canals, nor anthracite coal, nor houses of
refuge, nor societies for making the world perfect in every thing, nor
silver forks, nor self-sharpening pencils, nor metallic corn cutters,
nor japan blacking, nor gros de Naples, nor gros des Indes, nor
Cotepaly, nor any of the indispensable requisites to a comfortable
existence. What a set of miserable sinners they must have been! I don't
wonder for my part that children govern their parents; the young the
old; seeing the world is so much wiser, better and happier than it was
sixty years ago." Thus the good gentleman ran on, as was his custom,
until he finally lost sight of his subject and cooled in the pursuit.
"Well my dear uncle, if you wont listen to me—"
"But I will listen, who told you sir I would'nt listen—I suppose
you want me to do nothing else— hey!"
"I wanted to tell you, sir, that I see plainly, myself and my
concerns are destined to give you great and I fear unavailing trouble,
and have come to a resolution—"
"Well, sir, and what is it?"
"I intend as soon as I am well enough, to leave you, my dear uncle."
"I have been too long a dependent on your kindness, and I cannot but
perceive my remaining here will be a source of contention between you
and my cousin. I fear I shall never be able to touch her heart, and
without the free, uninfluenced gift of her affections, I would not
receive her as my wife, were she descended from heaven and with an
"Well, sir," said Mr. Lee, in breathless impatience and anger.
"I have little more to say, uncle. When I am well enough, I will
endeavour to do justice to my feelings of gratitude for all that I owe
"And so—and so, sir, you mean to leave me, now that you have got
out of the egg-shell, and can walk alone. If you do, by all that is
sacred, I'll disinherit you."
"I have no claim to your inheritance, sir. I would consent to share
it with my cousin, did her heart go with your bounty; but I will starve
sooner than rob her of a shilling."
"Will nothing move you to stay with me till I am dead?" said Mr.
Lee, overpowered by his feelings.
"One thing, and one only, sir—I will remain with you and be to you
as a son, if you will promise on your honour, that my cousin shall
neither be worried or urged, or entreated in any way against her
inclinations; and that I myself may be left to the direction of my own
sense of honour and propriety in this business. To make my cousin
uneasy, is not the way to win her heart, and even if it were, it is not
the mode to which I would descend."
"Well then I do promise—I pledge my word, that you shall do as you
please in this affair, and that Lucia shall have her own way in every
thing but in marrying that puppy sentimental, master Fitzgiles Goshawk."
"And I pledge myself, that living or dying, so far as my actions are
concerned, you shall never have reason to repent your kindness to me."
Here the conversation ended. Mr. Lee retired, and Highfield
stretched himself on his bed, overcome with a weakness, and perplexity
CHAPTER XV. Mutual mistakes and
deceptions. Mr. Lee meditates a most daring exploit.
The exertions and emotions of Highfield, encountering with his pains
and weakness of body, in the preceding conversation, brought on a
dangerous fever, which confined him several weeks. During this period
Lucia entirely intermitted her intercourse with the azure coterie, and
saw Mr. Goshawk but once, when he came in a long beard, dishevelled
locks, neglected costume, and various other insignia of a despairing
lover. He talked of himself, his depression of mind, his distress at
the danger in which he saw her at the time her horse was rearing and
plunging. But Lucia just now was deeply touched with the danger of
Highfield, and remembered while Goshawk had only felt, the other was
suffering for his exertions to preserve her life. True feeling, and
real sorrows, open our eyes to the full detection of those that are the
spurious product of ennui or affectation, and enable us to see
distinctly into the hypocrisy of others' hearts, by putting them to the
test of a comparison with our own. What Lucia felt now, satisfied her
that her former feelings were rather reflected from the society to
which she was accustomed, and the false colouring in which their false
sentiment was enveloped, than from her own heart. The subjection of her
excellent understanding to a long habit of associating with caricatures
of literary taste, and mawkish imitations of genius and sensibility,
was gradually undermined, by an estrangement of some weeks, and a
communion with those who felt as nature dictated, and expressed their
feelings in the language of truth.
In addition to this, we hold it to be utterly impossible for any
woman, that ever claimed descent from simple, tender hearted mother
Eve, to behold a man suffering pain and sickness, without feeling that
sympathy which renders woman, savage and civilized, wherever and in
whatever circumstances she may be found, the assuager of sorrows; the
nurse of calamity; the angel spirit that watches over the dying and the
dead. If perchance it happens that this heaven descended sympathy with
suffering, is coupled with a feeling of gratitude for some great
benefit, and a consciousness that their suffering is in consequence of
exertions made in her behalf, we confess we can hardly believe it
possible that this natural tenderness of heart, and this feeling of
gratitude, should not in the end combine to produce a still stronger
sentiment, more especially in favour of a young, handsome, and amiable
man. We should for these reasons, be inclined to discard our heroine
entirely and for ever from our good graces, had not the present crisis
of affairs, awakened her better self, and recalled her in some degree
back to the destiny for which nature had intended her.
It was more than four weeks before Highfield was decidedly
convalescent. During this period he had endured much, and nature
occasionally took refuge in that blessed delirium which, however
painful to the observer, is a heaven of oblivion to the weary sufferer.
It was at these times, when he knew nobody, and could interpret nothing
which he saw or heard, that the pride and delicacy of Lucia would yield
to the impulses of her heart, and she would watch for hours at his
bedside, moisten his parched lips, smooth his pillow, dispose his
aching head in easy postures, and once, only once, she kissed his damp
cold forehead. There was nothing violent in his delirium; his
wanderings were low and disjoined murmurs, connected as far as they
could be understood, with the recollections of his cousin. Sometimes he
would pause and fix his unsteady wandering eyes upon her, as if some
remote consciousness crossed his mind; but it was only a momentary
effort of memory, and died away in the wild wanderings of a diseased
The crisis of the fever passed over, leaving Highfield a wreck, just
without the gates of death. But youth and a good constitution at length
triumphed, and he became convalescent. As he recovered possession of
his reason, Lucia discontinued her watchings and confined herself
within the limits of ordinary attentions. Highfield sometimes thought
of a confused dream, a vision of a distempered mind, representing an
angel hanging over his couch and administering to his wants; but the
impression gradually passed away, and he remained ignorant of the truth
until long afterwards. Mr. Lee had been in a passion during the whole
period of Highfield's danger, and the doctor had no peace day or night.
If he talked about bleeding or a warm bath, Mr. Lee called him a
Sangrado; if he suggested any of the ordinary remedies, he was an
empiric, and if he thought of any experiment, he was a quack. In short,
the poor man led a terrible life, until his patient got better, when
the old gentleman grew into vast good humour, and nothing could equal
his conviction of the Doctor's skill. Juba indeed insisted, that he
himself had a principal hand in the cure, by concocting an African Obi
of the most sovereign virtue; but his master only called him an old
block head, and sent him about his business; whereupon old Ebony went
his way, muttering something that sounded something like `calling massa
It was now the beginning of June, when the infamous easterly winds,
that spoil the genial breath of spring with chilling vapours, generally
give place to the southern airs of summer. Lucia and Highfield had
resumed their intercourse, but with no great appearance of cordiality.
Highfield remained ignorant of the cares she had lavished and the tears
she had shed while he was unconscious of every thing, and Lucia,
fearful that he might possibly know it, shrunk with a timid
consciousness from all appearance or indication of that deep feeling
which late events had wakened in her bosom. He resolved, in the
recesses of his mind, to refrain in future from every attention to his
cousin, but such as their relationship demanded; and she secretly
determined to hide the strong preference she now felt, under the
impenetrable mask of cool indifference. I will not, said Highfield
mentally, I will not appeal to her gratitude or pity, for what her love
denies; and I, thought Lucia, scorn to repay with love a debt of
gratitude to one who seems to think that alone sufficient. Neither of
them suspected the other's feelings, and pride stepped in to complete
The consequence was, that, finding each other's society mutually
irksome and unsatisfactory, they avoided all intercourse but such as
was indispensable. Highfield sought every opportunity of being from
home; and Lucia was more than ever in the company of Mr. Goshawk, who
became every day more miserable and incomprehensible. He talked of
smothered feelings in a voice of thunder, and sighed with such
emphasis, that he on one occasion dislodged a geranium pot from a front
window, and came very near breaking the head of a little chimney-sweep
who was sunning himself below. But Lucia, though she encouraged his
affectations, from a mysterious, indefinite desire to be revenged on
Highfield for she knew not what, began to sicken a little at his
superlative azure. Of late she had become too well acquainted with the
substance of feeling and passion to be deluded by the shadow, and
sometimes, amid the depression of her mind, felt a great inclination to
laugh at the mighty Goshawk and his mighty verbosity. This heartless
intimacy contributed still more to estrange Highfield from home and her
society; for, unacquainted as he was with her real feelings, he
believed in his heart that his cousin had a decided prepossession for
the empty sentimentalist. He had never altogether recovered his
strength or his colour; there was a paleness in his face, a lassitude
about his frame, and a slow languor of motion, which gave to his
appearance a touching interest; and Lucia, as she sometimes watched him
without being seen, felt the tears on her eyelashes, as she noticed the
wreck of his youth, and recalled to mind to what it was owing. Thus
matters remained; Highfield was only waiting the return of his
strength, to make a final effort to disengage himself from the family
and pursue his fortune; Goshawk was daily meditating whether he should
sell the old gentleman's lands and buy stock when he married Lucia and
succeeded to the estate; and Lucia was daily losing her vivacity in the
desperate attempt to be gay.
But what became of Mr. Lightfoot Lee all this while? The old
gentleman was in the finest quandary imaginable. He grew so impatient
there was no living with him, and quarrelled with Juba forty times a
day. There was nobody else he could quarrel with. Mrs. Coates had gone
to pay a visit to Hold Hingland, and renew her acquaintance with Sir
Richard Gammon and Sir Cloudesley Shovel; Mr. Fairweather had gone to
see the Grand Canal; and to Highfield, he was bound by a solemn promise
not to say any thing on the subject nearest his heart. Never was man so
encumbered to the very throat with vexations, that almost choaked him
for want of a vent; notwithstanding he had a most ingenius way of
letting off a little high steam now and then. If he happened to
encounter a beggar woman at the door, he sent her about her business,
with a most edifying lecture on idleness, unthrift and intemperance; if
a dog came in his way he was pretty sure of a kick; if a door
interposed it might fairly calculate upon a slam; and if the weather
was any way deserving of reproof, it might not hope to escape a
phillippic. Unfortunately for Mr. Lee he had no wife, to become the
residuary legatee of his splenetic humours; but then he made himself
amends by falling upon the corporation for suffering the swine to
follow their instinct of wallowing in the mud, and for furnishing mud
for them to wallow in; for not taking up the beggars, and for taking up
so much time in passing laws instead of seeing to the execution of
those already passed; for allowing the little boys to fly kites in the
street; for spending money in monuments and canal celebrations, and
for every thing that ever occurred to the imagination of a worthy old
gentleman, who made amends for his mouth being shut on one subject, by
declaiming upon a thousand others, about which he did not care a fig.
He could not help seeing that his favourite project was in a most
backsliding condition, and that every day Lucia was less with Highfield
and more with Goshawk. Whereupon he gathered himself together, and
uttered a tremendous libel upon literary pretenders, rhyming fops,
empty declaimers, and sentimental puppies. Nay he spared not the azures
themselves, but pronounced their condemnation in words of such horrible
atrocity, that I will not dare the responsibility even of putting them
on record. I will not deny, however, that in the midst of his
blasphemies he said some things carrying with them a remote affinity
with common sense. He affirmed that there was among the women of the
present fashionable world, a hollow affectation of literature; an
admiration of affected sentiment and overstrained hyperbole; that they
placed too little value on morals, and too much on manners; that an
amiable disposition, together with all the qualities essential to
honourable action, were held in little consideration, while they paid
their court to the most diminutive dwarf of a genius, and listened with
exclusive delight to frothy declamations, the product of empty heads
and hollow hearts, alike devoid of manly firmness or the capacity to be
uselful in any honourable rank or situation. He reproached them in his
heart, with being the dupes of false sentiment and affected sorrow; and
finally concluded his blasphemies by giving it as his settled opinion,
that the present system of female education was admirably calculated to
make daughters extravagant, wives ridiculous, and mothers incapable of
fulfilling their duties. But I entreat my beloved female readers to
recollect, that all this was soliloquized in a passion by an elderly
gentleman, born long before the invention of steam engines and spinning
jennies, and that I only place it on record for the purpose of showing
what a prodigious "developement of mind," has taken place in the world,
since Mr. Lee received his early impressions.
The good gentleman sat himself down in his library, and fell into a
deep contemplation on the course proper to be pursued in this
perplexing state of his domestic affairs; which lasted at least half an
hour. At length he started up with almost youthful alacrity and rung
the bell. In due time, that is, in no very great haste, king Juba made
"Juba," said Mr. Lee, "bring out my best blue coat, buff waistcoat,
and snuff coloured breeches. I am going to dress."
"No time yet, massa, to dress for dinner—" said Juba.
"I tell you bring out my best suit, you obstinate old snowball—I
am going to pay a visit to a lady."
"A lady sir, massa!"
"Ay, a lady—is there any thing to grin at, in my visiting a lady,
"Juba," quoth Mr. Lee while dressing himself, "Juba, how old am I?"
"Massa, fifty-eight, last grass."
"No such thing, sir, I'm just fifty-five, not a day older. How
should you know any thing about it?"
"Why I only saw massa, de berry day he born— dat was—ay let me
see, was twenty-second day of—"
"Hold your peace, sir—you've lost your memory, as well as all the
five senses, I believe."
"Well, well, no great matter if massa, two, tree year older or
younger—all de same a hundred years hence."
"But it is matter I tell you, sir—I'm going to be married."
"Married!" echoed Juba, his white eyes almost starting out of his
ebony head—"married!" He saw at a glance such a resolution would be
fatal to his supremacy.
"Ay, married; is there any thing so extraordinary in that?"
"But what Miss Lucy say to dat, massa?"
"I mean to disinherit her."
Juba's eyes opened wider than ever, and he thought to himself the
debil was in his massa.
"What young massa Highfield say to dat?"
"I don't care what he says; I mean to disinherit him too."
"Whew—whew!" was the reply of old ebony. "Massa tell me what lady
he hab in he eye?"
"Miss Applepie too young for old massa."
Juba had been long accustomed to call Mr. Lee "old massa," without
giving offence, but now the phrase was taken in high dudgeon.
"Old master—you blockhead, who gave you the liberty of calling me
old? I'm only fifty-five, and Miss Appleby is twenty-two; the
difference is not great."
"Yes, but when Miss Applepie fifty-five, where old massa be den?"
This was a home question. Mr. Lee dismissed Juba, and sat down to
calculate where he should be when Miss Appleby attained to the age of
fifty-five. The result was altogether unsatisfactory. He again rung for
Juba, and directed him to put up his best suit again.
"I have put off my visit till to-morrow."
"Massa better put him off till doomday." quoth Juba to himself; and
so massa did.
CHAPTER XVI. Our hero determines on
There never was a man, or woman either, that found such difficulty
in keeping silence on what was uppermost in their hearts, as Mr. Lee,
or who had more ingenious ways of giving side hits, and uttering wicked
inuendos. He never on any occasion missed an opportunity of launching
out against addle pated rhymesters; boys that thought themselves wiser
than their betters; and girls who talked sentiment and forgot their
duty. If Goshawk uttered a word of azure, he cried "Pish!" if Lucia
talked sentiment, he ejaculated some other epithet of mortal contempt;
and if Highfield said any thing about honour or independence, he called
him a puppy.
In the mean time matters were growing worse and worse every day.
Goshawk ventured to hint pretty distinctly the nature and object of his
mysterious sorrows; Lucia treated her cousin with increasing coolness
and Highfield looked paler and paler. Unable to bear his situation any
longer, he one morning—it was the day after Lucia had given the watch
chain, she had promised him, to Goshawk, before his very eyes—he one
morning took the opportunity of being left alone with his uncle, to
announce to him, that being now sufficiently recovered from his
indisposition, it was his intention to visit his relatives in the
south, and spend some time with them. "Perhaps indeed I may not return
at all," said he.
Mr. Lee was struck dumb for a moment; but whenever this happens to
people, it is pretty certain they will make themselves ample amends for
their silence, as soon after as possible.
"Not come back at all!" at length roared the old gentleman; "did you
say that, boy?"
"I did, sir," said Highfield, firmly; "my situation here is becoming
intolerable. I am harassed with anxieties; depressed by a sense of
degrading dependence; and cut to the soul by perceiving every day new
reasons to believe my cousin knows and despises my presumption."
"May I speak?" cried Mr. Lee, gasping for breath.
"Hear me out first, my dear and honoured sir," said the other. "When
you first proposed this union to me, I considered the subject deeply. I
reflected that though poor and dependent on your bounty, still, next to
your daughter, I was your nearest relative; my cousin was rich enough
to make it immaterial that I was poor; she was lovely, amiable, and
intelligent, such a being as, when held up to the hopes and wishes of
youth, could not but prove irresistible. I therefore consented to try
my chance for this glorious prize by every means becoming a man of
spirit and honour placed in such a delicate situation. You see the
result, sir. Lucia not only feels indifferent to me, but there is every
appearance that she prefers another. I am too poor and too proud to
persecute or see her persecuted; and, let me add, too much attached to
my cousin to remain and see her united to another man. It is therefore
my settled determination, to leave you the day after to-morrow. My
passage is taken."
Mr. Lee was struck dumb again; but the fit did not last long.
"May I speak now—do you release me from my promise?" cried he, his
eyes starting almost out of his head.
As respects myself, sir, say what you will; but for my cousin, I
claim your promise that she shall suffer no persecution on my account."
"And so, sir, I must not speak to my own child?"
"I claim your promise, sir. Let her remain for ever ignorant of my
motives for leaving you."
"Charles," said the old man, taking his hand with tears in his eyes,
"are you determined to abandon me in my old age?"
"My dear uncle, my benefactor, any thing but this! I cannot stay to
be murdered by inches, and stand in the way of my cousin's happiness. I
must go. But wherever I do go, whatever my lot may be, my last breath
of life will be all gratitude for your past kindness. I wish it were
otherwise; but, for some time at least, we must part."
"Charles! Charles! my boy!" cried the warm hearted old man, as he
put his arms about his neck and wept on his shoulder. At this moment
Lucia entered, and inquired anxiously what was the matter?
"The matter! you, you are the matter," exclaimed Mr. Lee in a fury.
"Recollect your word of honour, sir," whispered Highfield to his
uncle, as he left the room. The old gentleman cast a most terrible look
at his daughter, and followed. Lucia remained pondering for some time
on the scene that had just passed; and it was not till she learned that
Highfield was on the point of leaving home for a long while, that her
perplexity became absorbed in another and more powerful feeling.
CHAPTER XVII. Highfield enters on a
Juba was assisting his young master, or rather delaying him, in
packing up his things, for the old man made a sad business of it; Lucia
was in her chamber, netting a purse as fast as her eyes would let her;
and Mr. Lee was in his library, writing with all his might.
"Ah, Massa Highfield!" said Juba at length, "what Miss Lucia say
when you go away?"
"Miss Lucia say!" quoth the other, somewhat surprised, "why nothing."
"Ah, Massa Highfield! if you only know what I know, icod! massa
wouldn't stir a peg, I reckon."
"What are you talking about, Juba, and what are you doing? You've
put my old boots up with my clean cravats."
"Ah, massa! I know what I say, but I don't know what I do now, much;
but if Massa Highfield only know what I do—dat's all."
"Well what do you know, Juba?" said Highfield, hardly knowing what
he was saying at the moment.
"I know Miss Lucia break her heart when you gone."
"Pooh! Miss Lucia don't care whether I go or stay."
"Ah, Massa Highfield! if you only see her set by your bed-side when
you light-headed, and cry so, and say prayers, and wipe your forehead,
and kiss it"—
"What—what are you talking about, you old fool?" cried Highfield,
almost gasping for breath. "If you say another word, I'll turn you out
of the room."
"Ah, Juba always old fool—no young fools now--a-days; all true
dough, by jingo, I swear. I seed her wid my own eyes—dat's all." And
he went on with his packing slower than ever, while Highfield sunk
into a deep reverie, the subject of which the reader must know little
of his own heart if he requires me to unfold.
The next morning was the last they were to spend together, and the
little party met at breakfast. Lucia at first had determined to have a
headach, and stay in her room; but her conscious heart whispered her
this might excite a suspicion that she could not bear the parting with
her cousin. Accordingly she summoned all the allies of woman to her
assistance. She called up maidenly pride, and womanly deceit, and
love's hypocrisy, to her aid, and they obeyed the summons. She entered
the breakfast room with a pale face, but with a self-possession which I
have never since reflected upon without wonder. Little was said and
less eaten by the party. A summons arrived for Highfield's baggage, and
a message for him to be on board in half an hour. Mr. Lee rose, and
taking from his pocket a paper, gave it to Highfield with a request not
to look at it till he was outside the hook. Highfield suspected its
purport, and replied:
"Excuse me, dear uncle, this once;" and he opened the paper, which
was nothing less than the deed of a fine estate Mr. Lee held in one of
the southern states.
"I cannot accept this, sir," said the young man. "I cannot consent
to rob my cousin of what is hers by nature and the laws." And his voice
became choked with emotion.
"I insist," said the old man; "it is all I can give you now. Once I
thought to give you all."
"And I too," said Lucia, but she could get no farther.
"I declare, on my soul," said Highfield, "I will not, I cannot
accept it, uncle. You at least know my feelings and can comprehend my
reasons, though others may not. I had rather starve than rob my cousin,
and her—I have nothing to give either of you in return." He pulled
out his watch; "I must go now," said he; and his voice sunk into
nothing. Lucia had been fumbling, with a trembling hand, in her
"My cousin is determined, I see," said she, rallying herself, "not
to accept any favours from us; but—but I hope he will not refuse this
purse, empty as it is. I have been a long while in keeping my promise;
but better late, they say, than never." And she burst into a torrent of
uncontrollable emotion. Highfield took it and put it in his bosom.
"And now, my dear uncle, farewell! may God bless you."
"Stop! one moment," cried Mr. Lee earnestly, and looking at Lucia,
who was weeping in her chair.
"Lucia," said he solemnly, "my nephew loves you, and is going from
us that he may not see you throw yourself away on a puppy with a heart
as hollow as his head."
"Uncle!" said Highfield.
"Nay, sir, I will speak; the truth shall out, though I travel
barefoot to Rome for absolution. Yes, daughter, my nephew loves you,
and with my entire and perfect approbation. And now, madam, I am going
to ask you some questions, which I trust at this parting hour you will
answer, not as a foolish, frivolous girl who thinks it proper to play
the hypocrite with her father, but as a reasonable woman and an
obedient child. Will you promise? The happiness of more than one
depends on your reply."
Lucia uncovered her face, and, having mastered her emotions, firmly
"I will, father."
"Have you given your affections to Mr. Goshawk?"
"I have not, sir."
"Do you mean to bestow them on him?"
"Are your affections engaged elsewhere?"
Lucia answered not; she could not speak for her life.
"Yes, yes, I see how it is," said Mr. Lee; "you are deceiving your
father again. You have given away you heart to some whiskered puppy you
waltzed with at a fancy ball, who can write a string of disjointed
nonsense about nothing in jingling rhyme, or criticise a book according
to the latest Edinburgh or Quarterly; and yet—look at me, Lucia, and
answer me too—did you not while your cousin was delirious visit his
"I did, sir."
"And weep and wring your hands; and watch his slumbers; and minister
to his comforts; and did I not once when I came into the room suddenly,
detect you hovering over him and kissing his forehead? Answer me, as
you hope for mine and Heaven's forgiveness for playing the hypocrite at
the price of others health and hopes; is it not so?"
"It is, sir," said the daughter faintly; and sinking back on her
chair she again covered her face with her hands.
"What am I to understand from all that I saw?"
"For Heaven's sake sir; for my sake; for the sake of your daughter,
stop—" cried Highfield, whose feelings on this occasion we will not
attempt to describe.
"Silence!" cried the old man; "too much has been risked, too much is
at stake, and too much may be sacrificed by stopping short at this
moment. Answer me, daughter of my soul," added he kindly yet solemnly.
"You are to understand, sir, from all this, that— that, though I
would not shut my heart to—to gratitude, I was too proud to force it
on one who did not value it when himself. He could not insult me with
indifference when unconscious of my presence.
"Oh Lucia, how unjust you have been to me! You knew not my feelings,
when I seemed most indifferent."
"There were two of us in the like error," replied she, with a heavy
"The pride of conscious dependence," said Highfield.
"The pride of woman," said Lucia.
"I loved you from the moment I felt the first impulses of manhood.
Oh Lucia, my dear cousin, daughter of my benefactor, companion of my
childhood, will you, can you fulfil his wishes and my hopes without
forfeiting your own happiness? Do you not despise my poverty and
presumption? Do you not hate me for being a party, at least in
appearance, in thus severely probing your feelings? Ah! had I known of
your kindness and attentions when I was not myself, I should not when
myself have forgot the deep heart piercing obligation; I should have
been grateful—" Mr. Lee could not bear the word—
"Grateful, pooh, nonsense—The lady is grateful for past favours;
and the gentleman is grateful for past sympathy. Look ye, most grateful
lady, and most grateful gentleman, I have not quite so many years to
live and make a fool of myself as you have, perhaps; now, Lucia, will
you take your old father's word when he tells you solemnly that Charles
has loved you ever since he came from college?"—
"Long before, sir!" cried Highfield, warmly.
"Hold your tongue, sir, if you please—Lucia, answer for yourself."
"I will believe any thing my father says, even were it ten times
more improbable," replied she, with one of her long absent smiles.
"And how think you he ought to be rewarded?"
"My gratitude will"—
"Now Lucia you are at your old tricks again; I tell you I wont hear
a word about that infernal gratitude."
"What shall I say, sir?"
"Say what your heart prompts, and do what never mortal woman did
before—speak the truth, even though it make your old father happy."
"Lucia," said Charles.
"Daughter," said Mr. Lee.
"Charles," said Lucia, and gave him her hand— "You shall know my
feelings when it will be my duty to disguise nothing from you."
Highfield lost his passage; the ship sailed without him, taking with
her all his wardrobe.
Goshawk called that morning as early as fashionable hours would
permit, to take the first opportunity of enforcing his attractions on
Lucia, in Highfield's absence.
"She no see any body," said Juba.
Mr. Goshawk said he had particular business. Juba demurred—
"She busy wid young Massa Highfield."
"What, is not Mr. Highfield gone?"
"No sir, he going another voyage soon."
"Not gone! why what prevented him?"
Juba grinned mortally—"Miss Lucia prevent him. Icod, Massa
Goosehawk bill out of joint, I reckon," quoth Ebony, half aside.
Goshawk soon got to the bottom of the matter; which he forthwith
communicated to the azure coterie at Miss Appleby's, each of whom made
a famous speech on the occasion, and voted Lucia a Goth.
"To fall in love with a man of no genius!" cried Miss Overend.
"Who can't write a line of poetry!" cried Miss Appleby.
"Who hates argument!" cried the great Puddigham.
"Who places actions before words!" cried Paddleford.
"Who never made a set speech in his life!" cried Prosser.
"Who hates passion—"
"And never reads a review—" cried they all together.
Every member of the azure tribe, to whom Goshawk's despairing
passion had been long known, took it for granted, that having so
excellent an apology, he would now certainly die of despair, or
suddenly make away with himself, after writing his own elegy. He did
neither; but he became if possible ten times more miserable than ever.
He railed at this world, and the things of this world; he tied a black
riband round his neck, drank gin and water, and ate fish every day.
One day he talked of joining the Greeks, and the next the Cherokees;
sometimes he sighed away his very soul in wishes for speedy
annihilation, and then he sighed away his soul again, in pining for the
delights of Italy, lamenting that he was not rich enough to go thither,
occupy a palace and hire a nobleman's wife to come and be his
housekeeper, like my Lord Byron. Man delighted not him, or woman
either; he sucked melancholy as the bee sucks honey out of every
flower; the sunshine saddened, the clouds made him melancholy, and the
light of the moon threw him into paroxysms of despair. Finally he
announced his determination to retire from this busy, noisy, heartless,
naughty, good for nothing world, and spend the remainder of a life of
disappointment and misery, in the great mammoth cave in Kentucky. But
what was very remarkable, and shows the strange inconsistencies of
genius, there was no public place, no party, no exhibition of any kind,
at which this unhappy gentleman did not make his appearance,
notwithstanding his contempt of the world, and its empty pleasures.
In process of time, there was a great dispersion from the tower of
Babel at Miss Appleby's. That azure and sublime lady, descended at
last, as she said, "to link her fate, chain down her destiny, and
trammel her genius, with an honest grocer from Coenties slip, who, not
being able to speak English himself, had a great veneration for high
and lofty declamation. Miss Overend got tired of the executive Greek
committee, and paired off with a little broker, who had got rich by
speculating in the bills of broken banks, and drank champaigne instead
of small beer at dinner. Paddleford married an heiress from somewhere
near the Five Points; and the great Puddingham became a member of the
city corporation, where he served on divers important committees, drew
up divers laws, that puzzled wiser men than himself to expound, and
became a sore persecutor of mad dogs, and wallowing swine, insomuch
that if a dog in his sober senses, or a swine of ordinary discretion,
saw him coming afar off, he would incontinently flee away like unto the
wind. He became moreover, a great philanthropist, and it was observed
that he never, in the capacity of assistant justice at the quarter
sessions, pronounced sentence on an offender, without first making him
a low bow, and begging his pardon for the liberty he was about to take.
Poor Mr. Goshawk, being thus as it were left alone howling in the
wilderness of the city, continued to nourish his despair at all public
places. He was a constant attendant at the Italian opera, where he kept
himself awake by nodding and bobbing his admiration; beating time with
his chin upon his little ivory headed switch, and now and then crying
"Bravo" to the Signorina. Every body said what an enthusiast was Mr.
Goshawk, and what a soul he had for music, until one night he mistook
Yankee Doodle for "Di Tanti," which ruined his reputation for ever as
a connoiseur. By slow, imperceptible, yet inevitable degrees, he at
length sunk to his proper level; for the most stupid at last will
become tired of affectation, and the most ignorant detect their kindred
ignorance. His loud pompous nothings; his affected contempt of the
world and distaste for life; his disjointed, silly, and unpurposed
poetical effusions; and his mysterious sorrows, all combined, failed in
the end to sustain his claim to genius. The admiration of his
associates dwindled into indifference, and even the young ladies
tittered at his approach. He tried the pretender's last stake— the
society of strangers. He went to the Springs, where it was his good
fortune to encounter the rich and sentimental widow of a rich lumber
merchant, from the neighbourhood of the great Dismal Swamp. She was
simplicity itself; she adored poetry, idolized genius, and the routine
of her reading had prepared her to mistake, high sounding words for
lofty ideas, and namby-pamby twaddle for genuine feeling. Goshawk
thundered away at the innocent widow, and finally soon melted her
heart, by declaiming about the worthlessness of this world, and the
heartlessness of mankind. The poor lady came to think it the greatest
condescension possible, for him to select her from this mighty mass of
worthlessness. Finally, he declared his enthusiastic love.
"La! Mr. Goshawk," said the widow, "I thought you despised the
world, and the people in it."
"Divine widow," cried the poet, "you belong to another world, and a
higher order of beings."
Goshawk is now the happy husband of the widow, and lords it over a
wide tract of the great Dismal. He orders his gentleman of colour to
cut down pine trees like Cicero declaiming against Verres; reads Lord
Byron under the shade of a bark hut; and makes poetry extempore riding
to church over a log causeway in a one horse wagon with wooden springs.
The widow has already discovered that her husband is no witch, for
nothing makes people more clear sighted than marriage; and the man of
genius has found out that his lady has a will of her own.
Our heroine remains the happy, rational, lovely wife of Highfield,
and talks just like other wellbred sensible people. She prefers Milton
to Byron, and the Vicar of Wakefield to an entire new Waverly. She
admires her husband, though he can't write poetry; and is a sincere
convert to the opinion, that high moral principles, gentlemanly
manners, amiable dispositions, a well constituted intellect, and the
talents to be useful in society, are a thousand times more important
ingredients in the character of a husband, than affected sensibility,
or the capacity to disguise empty nothings in pompous words, and
My worthy friend Mr. Lightfoot Lee is so happy, that he begins
seriously to doubt whether the world is really going forwards or
backwards. There is reason to apprehend that he and Mr. Fairweather
will soon agree on this great question, and then there will certainly
be an end to their long friendship.
"Ah massa," said King Juba one day to Mr. Lee, who was apt to boast
of his excellent management in bringing about this happy state of
things—"Ah massa, icod, if I no tell massa Highfield about dem dare
visit to he bedside, when he light headed, he no marry Miss Lucia arter
"Pooh, you old blockhead, don't you know marriages are made in
"May be so, massa, but old nigger hab something to do wid um for all
"Get away you stupid old ninny!"
"Massa wouldn't dare call me ninny, if I was a white man," quoth
Juba, as he strutted away with the air of a descendent of a hundred
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—Toys called honours Make men on whom they are bestowed no better
Than glorious slaves, the servants of the vulgar. Men sweat at helm as
well as at the oar. Here is a glass within shall show you, sir, The
vanity of these silkworms that do think They toil not, 'cause they spin
their thread so fine. Randolph.
One of the most dangerous characters in the world is a man who
habitually sacrifices the eternal, immutable obligations of truth and
justice, and the charities of social life, at the shrine of an abstract
principle, about which one half of mankind differs from the other half.
Whether this abstract principle is connected with religion or politics,
is of little consequence; since, after all, morals constitute the
essence of religion, and social duties, the foundation of government.
Whatever is essentially necessary to the conduct of our lives, the
performance of our duties to our families, our neighbours, and our
country, is easy of comprehension; and it requires neither argument nor
metaphysics to teach us what is right or what is wrong. These are great
fundamental principles, modified indeed by the state of society and
the habits of different nations; but their nature and obligations are
every where the same, inflexible and universal in their application. A
close examination of the history of the world in every age, will go far
to convince us that a vast portion of the crimes, and miseries, and
oppressions of mankind, has originated in a difference, not in morals,
but in abstract ideas; not in fundamental principles, but vague,
indefinite abstractions, incomprehensible to the great mass, and having
not the remotest connection with our moral and social duties. When men
come to assume these contested principles, these metaphysical
refinements, as indispensable to the salvation of the soul or the
preservation of the state, and to substitute them in the place of the
everlasting pillars of truth and justice, they cast themselves loose
from their moorings, to drift at random in the stream, the sport of
every eddy, the dupes of every bubble, the victims of every shoal and
quicksand. Instead of sailing by the bright star of mariners, which
sparkles for ever in the same pure sphere, they shape their course by
the fleeting vapour which is never the same; which rises in the
morning, a fog; ascends a fantastic cloud; and vanishes in the
splendours of the noontide sun.
The following sketch of my own history will serve to illustrate the
preceding observations, by showing how near an adherence to certain
vague, contested, abstract principles in politics, brought me to a
breach of all the cardinal virtues.
I am a politician by inheritance. My guardian, for I was early left
an orphan, was the great man of a little state that had more banks and
great men than any state of its inches in the universe. The state was
too small to accommodate more than one great man at a time; and the
consequence was an incessant struggle to keep one another's heads under
water. Like the buckets of a well, as one rose the other sunk; and the
filling of one was the emptying of the other. These struggles for the
helm of the little vessel of state kept up a perpetual excitement. The
puddle of our politics was ever in a mighty storm, and like Pope's
sylph, our illustrious great men were continually in danger of
perishing in the foam of a cup of hot chocolate. Then, our political
barque was so small that the veriest zephyr was enough to upset her,
and Gulliver's frog would have shipwrecked us outright.
From my earliest years I heard nothing but politics. Our family
circle were all politicians; men, women, and children. The wife of my
guardian made it a point of faith, never to believe any thing good of
the females of the opposite party; and though she was too conscientious
to invent scandals herself, she religiously believed the slanders of
others. Her candour never went beyond acknowledging that she believed
ignorance and not wickedness was at the bottom of their want of
political principle. The only daughter, naturally an amiable girl,
publicly gave out she would never marry any one who did not believe
her father to be a greater man than the Honourable Dibble Dibblee,
innkeeper at Dibbleesville, his most formidable rival. Love however
proved at last too potent for politics, and she relented in favour of a
handsome and rich Dibbleeite.
For my part, I was nurtured at the breast of politics, and imbibed a
nutriment gloriously concocted of a hundred absurd, ridiculous,
unneighbourly, and unchristian prejudices and antipathies. With me the
world was divided, not into the good and the bad, the wise and the
foolish, but into the adherents of the Honourable Dibble Dibblee,
innkeeper at Dibbleesville, and those of the Honourable Peleg Peshell,
cash-store keeper at Peshellville. At school I signalized my devotion
to principle, by refusing to share my good will or my gingerbread with
boys of the opposite party; and many are the battles I fought in
vindication of the wisdom, purity, and consistency of the Honourable
Peleg, my worthy guardian, who, I verily believe even to this day, was
an honest politician till the age of forty. After that, I will not
answer for any man, not even my own guardian. The prime object of my
antipathy was a lad of the name of Redfield, a gay, careless,
sprightly, mercurial genius, who always professed to belong to no
party, and whom I for that reason considered utterly destitute of all
principle. Several times I attempted to beat principle into him; but he
had the obstinacy of a puritan and the boldness of a lion. I always
got worsted, but my consolation was that I was the champion of
principle, and must not be discouraged.
At the time I am speaking of, parties were at the height of
contention, and the demons of discord, in the disguise of two editors
of party newspapers, flapped their sooty wings over the little state.
There was a great contest of principle, on the decision of which
depended the very existence of the liberties, not only of our little
state, but of the whole union. I never could find out what this
principle was exactly; but it turned on the question, whether a certain
bridge about to be built should be a free bridge or a toll bridge. The
whole state divided on this great question of principle. The Honourable
Peleg Peshell was at the head of the free bridge, on which depended the
great arch of our political union; and the Honourable Dibble Dibblee,
whose principles were always exactly opposite, forthwith took the field
as leader of the toll bridge party. The Honourable Peleg declared it
was against his principles to pay toll; and the Honourable Dibble
Dibblee found it equally against his principles to apply any part of
his money to building a bridge which was to bring him nothing in
return. Both sides accused the other of being governed by interested
motives. Such is the injustice of party feelings! There was a Tertium quid party, growling in an undertone, which was opposed to
having any bridge at all, upon the principle, that as it would be no
advantage to them, and at the same time cost them money, it was their
interest to oppose the whole affair. The leader of this party was the
Honourable Tobias Dob, a ruling elder of the principal church in
The fate of a pending election rested on this bridge, and the fate
of the bridge rested on the election. The principle to be decided was
one on which the liberties of the whole confederation depended. Is it
therefore to be wondered at, that the good people of our patriotic
state should consider the destinies of the world and the future welfare
of all mankind as mainly depending on the decision of this great
question? or can we be surprised, if, in a contest for such momentous
principles, affecting not only the present age but all posterity, the
passions of men should be excited, and all the charities of life
forgotten, in this vital struggle for the human race, present and to
come? Heavens! how our political puddle did foam, and swell, and lash
its sides, and blow up bubbles, and disturb the sleepy serenity of the
worms inhabiting its precincts!
On the day of election, each party took the field, under its own
appropriate banner. The party of the Honourable Peleg Peshell had for
its motto, "Principle not Interest;" that of the Honourable Dibble
Dibblee, "Interest not Principle;" and the Honourable Tobias Dob
paraded his Tertium quids under that of "Principle and
Interest." Here was room enough, and reason enough too, in all
conscience, for the goddess of contention to act a most splendid part;
and, accordingly, had the ancestors of the different parties been
fighting from the creation of the world, their posterity could not have
hated each other as did my worthy fellow-citizens, for the time being.
They abused each other by word of mouth; they published handbills and
caricatures; and such was the disruption of the social principle, that
the adherents of the Honourable Peleg Peshell passed a unanimous
resolution to abstain from visiting the tavern of the Honourable Dibble
Dibblee, from that time forward. The friends of the Honourable Dibble
retorted upon those of the Honourable Peleg, by passing a unanimous
resolution, not to buy any thing at his cash-store; and the Tertium
quids also passed a resolution, that "Whereas all men are born free
and equal, and whereas the liberty of speech and action is the
unalienable right of all men, therefore resolved unanimously, that the
Honourable Peleg Peshell is a fool; the Honourable Dibble Dibblee, a
rogue; and the Honourable Tobias Dob a man to whom the age has produced
few equals and no superior.
(Signed) "Upright Primm, Moderator."
The Honourable Peleg had unfortunately broken the bridge of his nose
in early life, and the breach had never been properly repaired. His
adversary took advantage of him, by publishing a caricature of a man in
that unlucky predicament, crying out "No bridge; down with the
bridges!" Whereupon the other party retorted, by a figure standing
under an old fashioned sign-post, (which every body knows marvellously
resembles a gallows,) with a label bearing the following posey: "Hang
all republicans! I'm for the publican party—huzza! give us a sling."
The Honourable Tobias would have inflicted a caricature also upon his
adversaries, but as ill luck would have it, the election fund gave out
just at the crisis. This incident gave rise to a negotiation, in which
the Honourable Dibble Dibblee intimated an offer to treat the Tertium quids during the remainder of the election gratis, provided
they would promise to drink moderately, and vote for him. The
Honourable Tobias found his principles inclining a little to one side,
on this occasion; but the Honourable Peleg, having got notice of this
intrigue, took measures to bolster him up again, by proposing a
coalition. He offered to make the Honourable Tobias a judge of the
superior court, with a salary of sixty dollars, if he would bring over
his Tertium quids. Tobias—I beg pardon— the Honourable
Tobias Dob balanced for a moment between the vital principle of
benefiting his friends, and the vital principle of benefiting himself.
After a sore struggle, the latter prevailed, and the Honourable Peleg
Peshell was elected governor. His friends pronounced it the greatest
triumph of principle that had ever been achieved upon earth; but truth
obliges me to say, the friends of the Honourable Dibble Dibblee
slandered their opponents with the opprobrium of a corrupt coalition.
To be even with them, the friends of the Honourable Peleg denounced the
others as a corrupt combination. Thenceforward the question of toll and
no toll was swallowed up in the great principle involved in the
question of coalition and combination. The Tertium quids, who
still kept together for the purpose of selling themselves again to the
highest bidder, insisted there was no difference between a coalition
and a combination, and therefore they would join neither. "You are
mistaken," said my old schoolmate and antagonist, Redfield, "you are
mistaken; there is all the difference in the world. A coalition is a
combination of honest men, to get into office; and a combination is a
coalition of honest men, to get them out. They are no more alike than a
salamander and a bull-frog; they inhabit the opposite elements."
It was in this contest that I first brought the principles I had
imbibed from the conversation and example of my worthy guardian, into
practical operation. Young and inexperienced as I was, I most firmly
believed that the Honourable Peleg Peshell was the most honest as well
as capable man in the state; that it depended in a great measure on his
election, whether freedom or slavery should predominate in the world;
and consequently that those who opposed him must be devoid of principle
as well as patriotism. It was one of the maxims of the Honourable
Peleg, that all minor principles ought to yield to one great principle,
by which the life of every great man should be governed. Once convinced
that the safety or welfare of a nation or a community depended on the
success of a party struggle, it was not only justifiable, but an
inflexible duty, to sacrifice all other duties and obligations to the
attainment of the great object. If it happened that our individual
interest or advancement was connected with, or dependent on, the
triumph of the great principle, so much the better; we could kill two
birds with one stone, and not only save our country, but provide for
our families at the same time. The Honourable Peleg was a great man,
and my guardian; his opinions and example could therefore hardly fail
of having a vast influence on mine.
When this vital struggle about toll or no toll, which was to settle
the great principle on which depended the liberties of ourselves and
our posterity, commenced, my guardian hinted to me that now was the
time to gain immortal glory, by assisting in the salvation of my
country. I begged to be put in the way of achieving this great service.
"There is my neighbour Brookfield, whose influence is considerable.
He supports my enemies and the enemies of the great principle on which
the salvation of the country depends. I want to destroy that influence."
"Very well, sir. Shall I attack his opinions in the public papers?"
"Attack his opinions! attack a fiddlestick, Oakford. You may as well
fight with a shadow. No, no; attack him personally, cut up his moral
character; that is the way, boy. Even people that have no morals
themselves are very tenacious of the morals of others."
"But, sir, I know nothing of the morals of Mr. Brookfield, but what
is greatly to his credit. I can't in conscience publish or utter any
thing against his character. His opinions"—
"Pish! opinions! opinions are nothing, unless they grow into
actions. You must make him out to be a great rogue, or I shall lose my
"I can't, sir; it goes against my conscience."
"Conscience! what has conscience to do with principle? You would
sacrifice the liberties of your country and the happiness of unborn
millions to a scruple of conscience. Ah! George, you will never make a
"But, sir, Mr. Brookfield is my friend; I have visited at his house
almost every day for the last two years; and he and his family have
treated me like one of themselves. It would be ungrateful."
"And so," said the Honourable Peleg, with a sneer, "and so you would
place your own private, and personal, and, let me say, selfish feelings
in opposition to a great principle, on which the salvation of your
"But, sir, by attacking the moral character of Mr. Brookfield, I
should not only injure his own feelings, but perhaps destroy the
happiness of his wife and daughter, who are innocent of all offence
"Ah! George; I see how it is; you are smitten with Miss Deliverance
Brookfield, and would sacrifice a great principle to a little selfish
consideration of your own. I must make a tailor of you; you'll never do
for a politician."
The Honourable Peleg left me to consider of the matter. It was a
sore struggle, but at last principle triumphed, and I determined most
heroically to sacrifice all petty, personal, and interested
considerations to the salvation of my country. My guardian furnished me
with certain hints, on which I exercised my genius, in the composition
of a most atrocious libel.
"It wont do," said the Honourable Peleg; "it will lay you open to a
prosecution for a libel."
"Well, what of that, sir? I am willing to encounter any peril for
the salvation of my country."
"Yes," said my guardian, after some hesitation, "yes; but there is
no occasion to risk your fortune for the purpose. The salvation of the
country don't depend on money, but principle. You are about to become a
patriot; and a rich patriot has always more influence than a poor one:
you must therefore keep your money for the salvation of the country."
My commerce with mankind has since taught me that the capacity of
men for worldly affairs is almost entirely founded on experience. Hence
it is, that so few men go right in the first affair they undertake. It
did not occur to me at the time, that, as I was under age, the
Honourable Peleg would have been responsible for the libel, had it been
published. Be this as it may, I resigned my first literary offspring
into the hands of my guardian, who softened it down into hints,
inuendoes, and interrogations, and converted it into one of the most
mischievous yet legally innocent instruments of torment ever seen in or
out of the Inquisition. The article appeared in the Banner of Truth,
our paper; and was followed up, from time to time, with others still
more cruelly unintelligible, but at the same time calculated, by their
very mystery, to do the more mischief. There was no direct charge; of
course there could be no refutation. My conscience goaded me day and
night. I had not the face to visit our neighbour any more, after thus
wounding his feelings; and this squeamishness, as the Honourable Peleg
told me, was another proof that I would never make a great politician.
I sometimes ventured to look at the family at church, where the grave
depression of Mr. Brookfield, and the paleness of his wife and
daughter, went to my heart. But this feeling of compunction subsided at
length into one of lofty triumph, that I had sacrificed my early
feelings and associations, my selfish considerations, to principle.
One day I met Deliverance Brookfield, by chance, in a spot where we
had often played together in childhood, and walked together in youth.
She turned her head the other way, and was passing me without notice.
The sense of offending guilt overcame for a moment the sublime theory
of the Honourable Peleg, and I involuntarily exclaimed, "Miss
She turned upon me a countenance at once pale and beautiful, but
tinged deeply with melancholy reproach, as she looked steadily in my
face without speaking.
"Have you forgot me, Miss Brookfield?"
"I believe I have," at length she replied in a sad kind of languor.
"I would never wish to remember one who has repaid the friendship of my
father, and the kindness of my mother, by destroying our happiness."
I felt like a scoundrel, but mustered hypocrisy enough to answer in
a gay tone,
"My dear Miss Brookfield, nobody thinks any thing of such trifles in
politics; nothing but political squibs—forgot in a day—they do no
harm to any one."
"None," she replied bitterly; "no harm except murdering reputations
and breaking hearts. My father is dying." And she burst into tears.
"Dying!" cried I, "Heaven forbid! of what?"
"Of the wounds you have given him. O George, George! continued she,
"you should come to our house, and receive a lesson of what a few
slanders can do in destroying the happiness of an innocent family."
She passed on, and I had not courage to stop, or to follow her. I
went to the honourable Peleg, and gave him notice, that it was my
intention to retract all I had said or insinuated against Mr.
Brookfield, in the next day's Banner of Truth.
"And lose me my election—I mean sacrifice a great principle, and
jeopardize the happiness of millions to a little private feeling of
"I cannot bear the stings of conscience."
"My dear George—you, and such inexperienced young fellows as
yourself, are for ever mistaking the painful efforts which are
necessary to the attainment of a high degree of public virtue, for the
stings of conscience. If the practice of virtue was not attained by
great sacrifices of feeling and inclination, there would be little
merit in being virtuous. What if you have destroyed the temporary
happiness of two or three people, provided you have ensured the triumph
of a great principle, and the salvation of your country? It is the
noble, the exalted, the disinterested sacrifice of private
inclinations, and social feelings to public duty. Did not Brutus
condemn his only son?"
"Yes, but he did not calumniate his mother and sisters."
"The greater the sacrifice to public principles, the greater the
glory and reward. The election commences to-morrow, and you must
strike one more blow."
As it is my design to make my story as useful to the rising
generation of politicians as possible, I mean to disclose myself
without disguise or reservation. I did let slip another shaft against
poor Brookfield, which probably accelerated his progress to the grave,
and deprived my kind friend and my pretty playmate of a husband and a
father. I would not confess this hateful fact, could I not lay my hand
at this moment on my heart, look in the face of Heaven and man, and
say, that at the moment of inflicting a death wound on the happiness of
those who had been to me as a mother, a father, and sister, I had
convinced myself I was sacrificing a narrow, selfish feeling to an
enlarged and universal principle of virtuous patriotism. Poor
Brookfield died a few days after the election; but the honourable Peleg
Peshell gained the victory; and a domestic calamity was not, as he
assured me, to be weighed for a moment against the triumph of a great
principle, and the salvation of millions of people yet unborn.
Brookfield was no more; his family was destitute; his widow heart
broken; his daughter without a protector; and his little son, of about
ten years old, left upon the world. But what of that? The great
principle had triumphed; the oppression of toll bridges was prevented;
and the honourable Peleg Peshell was governor of a little state
containing more banks and more great men, than any state of its inches
in the universe, with a salary of five hundred dollars a year, and the
power to do nothing, but consent to the acts of other people.
From this time forward, I became the confidential friend and adviser
of the great governor of the little state, commander of an army and
admiral of a navy that had no existence; who had five hundred dollars a
year, with the title of excellency, the privilege of doing nothing of
his own free will, and franking letters. The Lord have mercy on a
little man, who becomes the confidential friend and adviser of a great
man. He will be obliged to do for him, what he is ashamed to do for
himself; to take all the blame of giving bad, and relinquish all the
credit of good counsel; to fetch, and carry, and say, and gainsay, and
unsay; to prostitute his soul to unutterable meannesses, and turn the
divinity of conscience into a crouching spaniel, obeying every look,
wagging his tail in gratitude for kicks, and licking the hand that lugs
the ears from his head. I speak from awful experience, for never little
man was rode and spurred, over hill, dale, and common, through ditch,
swamp, and horsepond, as I was by that illustrious patriot the
Honourable Peleg Peshell—I beg pardon—his Excellency, the
Honourable Peleg Peshell, Esquire.
But I will do his Excellency the justice to say, that he did every
thing upon principle, and for the salvation of unborn millions. Life,
would he say, is a warfare of conflicting duties, and opposing
principles; a choice of evils, or a choice of goods. It is the
business of a wise man to decide, not between the nearest and the most
distant, but between the greater and the lesser obligation.
"But," said I modestly—for by this time, such is the magic of
dependence on great men, I had come to look upon his Excellency as an
oracle irrefragable; "But," said I," suppose one man was holding a red
hot poker to your nose, while another was calling upon you to establish
a great principle, would not you attend to the poker before the
"Certainly I would, sir—" His Excellency never of late called me
sir, but when he was a little out of humour—"Certainly, sir; but it
would be only in compliment to the weakness of human nature; for
nothing is more certain than that it would be my duty to let the poker
burn up my nose, rather than miss the opportunity of benefiting future
ages, by the establishment of a great political principle."
"But will your Excellency permit me to ask how you ascertain to a
certainty that a great political principle is right, when perhaps one
half of mankind think it wrong?"
"Why, sir, my own reason and experience teach me."
"But another's man reason and experience teach him directly the
"Then he must be either a great blockhead, or a great knave,"
replied the Honourable—I mean his Excellency the Honourable Peleg
Peshell, in a tone that precluded farther questioning.
It was many years afterwards that I perceived the fallacy of thus
raising up an idol, which while one man worshipped another abhorred,
and sacrificing to it the eternal and immutable attributes of justice
and truth, about which there can be no difference of opinion. It was
only long experience and reflection that convinced me at last, that the
sacrifice of moral and social duties, to mere opinions, elevated to the
dignity of great and established principles, about which all mankind
differ, must be fatal in the end, not only to the morals of mankind,
but to that freedom whose only foundation is based upon them. I
received the responses of his Excellency with profound submission, and
continued to act upon them in a long series of political servitude.
About a year after the great triumph of principle, which resulted in
the choice of his Excellency the Honourable Peleg Peshell for Governor
of the little state, with such a plenty of banks and great men, I came
of age, and it was proper for his Excellency to give an account of the
administration of my affairs. He put me off from day to day, month to
month, year to year, until my patience was quite worn out. At length,
finding it impossible any longer to satisfy me with excuses, he one day
addressed me as follows:
"My dear young friend, it is not to be supposed, that a man whose
whole soul is taken up with his public, can pay proper attention to his
private duties. Whenever these come in conflict with each other, it is
his pride and glory to sacrifice all for his country, and beggar
himself, for the salvation of unborn millions. I cannot tell exactly
how it happened, but your fortune is gone; either I have spent it
myself, by mistake, in the hurry of my public duties, or some one else
has spent it for me. However, this cannot be of much consequence, since
the great principle has triumphed, and the salvation of the country is
secured beyond all future hazard. Remember how Brutus the elder
sacrificed his son, as an example to the Roman militia, and console
yourself with the certainty that you have devoted your fortune to the
establishment of a great principle."
This reasoning, though it had always proved satisfactory when
applied to the affairs of other people, did not exactly relish to my
understanding in the present case. It occurred to me that though a man
might honestly sacrifice his own fortune to the establishment of a
great principle, he had no right to take the same liberty with that of
another, intrusted to his management. I took the freedom to hint
something of this sort.
"Pshaw! George," replied his Excellency, "you will never make a
great patriot I'm afraid. Is not the major greater than the minor?"
"Is not a community greater than an individual?"
"Is not the good of the whole, the good of all its parts?"
"Well sir! is not the establishment of a great principle, on which
depends the happiness of millions, of far more moment than the
temporary inconvenience you will feel from the loss of your fortune?"
"Certainly, sir," said I very faintly.
"Good—I believe I shall make something of you at last. You are
worthy of the confidence of your fellow-citizens. Now listen to me.
Another election is coming on, which involves another great principle,
on which depends the salvation of the country, and the happiness of
unborn millions. A great state road is to be laid out by the next
legislature, and I have it from the very best hand, that if we do not
exert ourselves, it will be carried over a part of the country so
distant from my property, and that of my best friends, as to do us
rather an injury than a benefit. Now, though I am interested in this
business, that is my misfortune. It is the great principle dependent
upon the decision of the question that I am solicitous to vindicate. My
intention is to get you into the legislature, provided you will pledge
yourself to stand in the breach, and prevent the destruction of our
liberties, which mainly depend upon the great principle involved in
this road bill. What say you, will you pledge yourself to your
"O none of your ifs, George—you'll never make a great politician
if you stumble before an if."
"But my conscience, sir."
"Your conscience!" cried his Excellency the Honourable
Peleg—"Conscience! who ever heard of a representative of the people
having a conscience? Why sir, his conscience belongs to his
constituents, who think for him, and decide for him. One half the time
it is his duty to act in the very teeth of his conscience. He is only
the whistle on which the people blow any tune they please."
"It appears to me, sir, that this doctrine is rather immoral."
"Immoral!" cried his Excellency, throwing himself back in his chair,
and laughing; "immoral! what has morality to do with the establishment
of a great principle? I ought to have made a tailor of you, I see."
"Lookee, George," continued his Excellency, after he had laughed
himself out, "every young man who devotes himself to political life,
must in the outset, if he wishes to be successful, surrender his
opinions and feelings entirely to the establishment of certain great
radical principles. He must have neither morals nor conscience. All he
has to do is to inquire whether a thing is necessary to the
establishment of these principles, and do it as a matter of course,
although abstractedly and in itself it may be in the teeth of law and
gospel. For instance, George—why, you are looking at that pretty
girl, Silent Parley, instead of listening to me. You will never make a
I begged his Excellency's pardon, and he proceeded.
"For instance, suppose you were, like myself, in a high official
situation, and were solicited by two persons to do two things directly
opposite in their nature and consequences; what would you do?
"I would inquire into the matter, ascertain, if possible, which was
right, and act accordingly."
"You would! Then let me tell you, sir, you would soon be sent to
raise cabbages and pumpkins on your farm. No, sir, your duty would be
to inquire and ascertain whether the great principle on which depended
your remaining in office, would be best sustained by complying with the
wishes of one or other of the persons soliciting your interest. Having
found this out, there would be no further difficulty in the matter. You
would of course decide upon principle."
"Principle, sir! why really, excuse me, your Excellency, but this is
what the country farmers call being governed by interest, not
"Pooh, George! your head is not longer than a pin's; can you
comprehend a syllogism?"
"I believe so, sir, if it has a sufficiency of legs."
"Very well," continued his Excellency, "certain principles are
essentially necessary to the salvation of the state and the happiness
of unborn millions. I advocate these principles; ergo, it is necessary
to the salvation of the state and the happiness of unborn millions,
that I should be chosen governor, and reward those who chose me, as far
as it may be in my power. Now, sir, as to my own personal interests;
here is the point in which the talents of a great man are most
essentially tested; I mean in making his interests and his principles
harmonize with each other. If he can do this he is fit to govern the
whole universe; if not, he is fit for nothing but a mechanic; for how
can it be supposed that a man can take care of the interests of other
people who neglects his own?"
The logic of his Excellency the Honourable Peleg Peshell, Esquire,
was conclusive, and I agreed to vote against my conscience, for the
good of my country, if necessary; after which, I sallied forth and
overtook the pretty Silence Parley. It was a delightful summer
afternoon, or rather evening, for the twilight had put on its cloak of
gray obscurity, and we walked along the hard white sand of the quiet
bay, arm in arm, sometimes talking and sometimes looking at one another
in luscious meditation. She was worth a description; but my story is
one of principle, and I shall dwell on such trifles as love and woman,
only so far as is necessary to my purpose. After I had sacrificed my
kind friend and neighbour Brookfield and his family on the altar of
principle, I never could bear to look Deliverance in the face again.
Indeed the mother soon after carried her family to her friends in a
distant part of the country, and I saw them no more. Next to
Deliverance Brookfield, Miss Silence Parley was the fairest of our
maidens, who all were fair, if rosy cheeks, round glowing figures, and
sky clear eyes, could make them so. She was likely to be an heiress
too; and the Honourable Peleg hinted to me one day, that it would
marvellously conduce to the triumph of a great principle, if I could
win and wear her.
"For," said he, "her father is a man of a good deal of political
influence, which he does not choose to exert, being one of those
selfish blockheads who prefer peace and quiet to the salvation of
unborn millions. If you could marry his daughter, I dare say he would
come out in favour of the great principle."
This time, for a great wonder, I think, for it is the only time it
ever happened to me in all my subsequent career, this time my
principles chimed in with my interests, and I determined, if possible,
to charm the fair Silence into speaking to the purpose. We were often
together alone in the modest, humble twilight, walking and talking, or
sitting and silent. We exchanged looks and little civilities, that
spoke expressive meanings; and, in short, it was not long before I saw
in the eyes of my pretty Silence the signal of surrender. I had not
actually offered myself, but I had determined upon it; when the
election approached near at hand, on which depended the great
principle, whether the great state road should pass through the
property of the Honourable Dibble Dibblee, Esq. innkeeper of
Dibbleeville, or of his Excellency the Honourable Peleg Peshell,
Esquire, cash storekeeper at Peshellville, and consequently the
salvation of unborn millions.
His Excellency the Honourable Peleg one day took occasion to hint to
me, that it might be as well to sound the Honourable Peabody Parley,
Esquire, the father of my pretty Silence, as to his using his influence
in my behalf in the coming struggle of principle.
"I had better ask his consent to marry his daughter first," said I.
"No, sir, you had better ask for his support first," replied his
Accordingly I went to the Honourable Peabody Parley; there were as
many Honourables in our little state as hidalgos in Spain; I went and
asked his support in attaining the high honour of being elected a
member of the legislature in the coming contest of principle. The
Honourable Peabody told me frankly he would do no such thing, unless I
pledged myself to vote and use all my influence in getting the great
state road laid out so as to run through a part of his property, where
he was going to found a great city. This was in direct opposition to
the great principle of the Honourable Peleg Peshell, whose property lay
in the other extreme of the state. I required time for consideration,
and went to consult my guardian. He shook his head and was angry.
"You must go and pay your addresses to Miss Welcome Hussey Bashaba,
daughter to the Honourable Jupiter Ammon Deodatus Bumstead, of
Bumsteadvilleton, as soon as possible."
"But, sir, Miss Hussey Bashaba is as ugly as a stone fence, with a
flounce and fashionable bonnet on it."
"No matter, the safety of the country and the salvation of unborn
millions depend on it."
"But, I am all but engaged to Miss Silence Parley; I have committed
"No matter, the triumph of principle will be the greater."
"How so, sir?" replied I, rather perplexed at this mystery.
"How so; why the Honourable Mr. Bumstead is the proprietor of a
manufactory, which can turn out votes enough to carry the election. You
must be off at once, for the great contest of principle approaches."
I mounted my horse, after a sore struggle between my heart and the
great political principle, and proceeded towards the stately shingle
palace of my intended father-in-law, to visit my intended, the
redoubtable Miss Welcome Hussey Bashaba Bumstead, the daughter, the
only daughter of the Honourable Jupiter Ammon Deodatus Bumstead, of
Bumsteadvilleton, the best manufacturing seat in the state, with a
great power of water. My horse, being no politician, and withal a most
unprincipled quadruped, stopped stock still at the gate which led to
the abode of Miss Silence Parley. She was standing on the piazza,
looking like a rosy sylph, expecting me, for she had seen me afar off.
My horse was obstinate, and though I confess I pricked him on violently
with my spurs, I held the rein so tight that he could do nothing but
rear. This frightened my pretty Silence, who screamed, and ran to open
She begged me to dismount and lead my horse in.
"I cannot just now," said I, in a sneaking, snivelling tone; "I am
going on to Bumsteadvilleton just now."
"To see Miss Hussey Bashaba?" said she, with a mischievous smile of
meaning, for Miss Hussey was the reigning she-dragon of the whole
"No," said I, with the face of a robber of a henroost; "no, I'm
going to buy some cotton shirting."
I could stand it no longer; I clapped spurs to my horse—she waved
her lily hand, whiter than snow, and I was out of sight in a minute. It
was the greatest triumph of principle I ever achieved.
The Honourable Jupiter Ammon Deodatus received me as he would one of
his best customers; and Miss Hussey Bashaba smiled upon me like a
roaring lion. There is one great comfort in addressing an exemplary
ugly woman; she don't require much wooing, provided she is a reasonable
creature. Neither are parents very impracticable in cases of this
kind. The Honourable Jupiter Ammon promised me his support, and I
promised to take his daughter. We were married in a week. The
Honourable Jupiter Ammon brought out his two hundred ragamuffins, all
men of clear estate, if not freeholders. I was elected by a handsome
majority; and again the triumph of principle, on which depended the
salvation of unborn millions, was completed, at the trifling expense of
the mere sacrifice of a few insignificant moralities, of no consequence
but to the owner.
The collected wisdom of the state, of which I formed one twentieth
part at least, met in good time. His Excellency the Honourable Peleg
Peshell delivered a speech to both Houses, in which he took a rapid
view of the creation of the world; man in a state of nature—the want
of principle in the opposition— the profligacy of certain leading
politicians— recommended a loan, six canals, nine rail roads, and
seventeen banks—and concluded with a touch of piety, that brought
tears into our eyes, as he thanked Heaven for having achieved this last
great triumph of principle.
The whole Assembly was divided, as usual, on a great principle
different from that on which the famous toll bridge rested. The great
question on which the great principle was based, on which the salvation
of unborn millions depended, was whether the great state road was to
diverge fifteen degrees thirty-seven minutes west, or fifteen degrees
thirty-seven minutes east northeast. Such is the influence of
propinquity in questions of this sort, that it exercised complete sway
on this occasion. In proportion as a member had a propinquity towards
the west line, or the east, precisely in the same degree did the great
fundamental principle which governed his actions incline in that
direction; and so intimate was the association between principle and
interest, that had I not actually known to the contrary by my own
experience, I should have supposed they were one and the same thing.
But there were little minor principles operating in subordination to
that of the great state road. One member, for example, was principled
against voting for any state road at all, unless the friends of the
road would vote for his canal. Another would not so far prostitute his
principles as to vote for the canal, unless the friends of the canal
would support his application for a bank. In the end, finding the
principles of the members to be absolutely incompatible, we hit upon an
arrangement, which was perfectly satisfactory to the most tender
conscience, and came up to the great principle by which every member
was governed. The proposition was moved by myself, at the suggestion of
his Excellency the Honourable Peleg Peshell, Esquire, Governor and
Captain General of the little state with so many banks and great men.
My plan was no other than to jumble roads, canals, and banks, all
together in one bill, by which the principles of all would be
perfectly satisfied, and all scruples quieted for ever. After amending
the proposition, at the instance of a philanthropist, by a donation of
five hundred dollars to the society for the prevention of tippling, the
whole was rolled through triumphantly. Every body's principles were
quieted, and every man had lent a hand to the salvation of unborn
millions. Such is the magic of public virtue! There were scarcely half
a dozen members agreeing in the first instance, yet such was the spirit
of friendly compromise, that in the end every member without exception,
but one, voted for the bill solely on the score of principle—of doing
as he would be done unto. The only dissentient was a member, who so far
forgot his duty to his country as to come there without a project for
her benefit. Having nothing to ask, he was unwilling to give any thing
away, and voted against my proposition.
It was on this occasion I delivered my maiden speech. Public
expectation was on tiptoe; the boys climbed up to the windows of the
state house; the ladies of the Honourable Abel Rooney, the Honourable
Peartree Brombush, and of the Honourable Roger Pegg, with their
twenty-seven blooming and marriageable daughters, seated themselves in
front of the gallery; and the Speaker cried silence, and rattled his
hammer so that his tobacco box bounced off the table. I was penetrated
with the justice of my cause, the great principle involved in the
question, and the dignity of my auditory. I began:
"If I possessed the power to flash conviction, as the lightning does
upon the bosom of the thunder cloud, redundant with fire and brimstone:
Sir-r-r, if I could wrest from the sceptre—I mean, if I could wrest
the sceptre from reason, and rob the spheres of the music of their
voices: Sir-r-r, if I could, by any effort of this feeble hand and
tremulous body, pour the tremendous and overwhelming flood of
conviction like a wall of adamant over your souls, until they melted in
the red hot embers of conviction: Sir-r-r, if I could freeze your
hearts till they offered an icy barrier to the intrusion of all selfish
considerations, and reared the massy column of their waters up to the
topmost pinnacle of the arching skies: Sir-r-r, if I could swallow up
at a single effort of my imagination, the possibility of believing it
possible that the cries of the orphan, the bewailings of reckless and
wretched poverty— the exhortations of the halt, the dumb, and the
deaf— the mother's groans—the weeping stones—the orphan's
Here I was interrupted by a burst of hysterical tears from the
beautiful blue eyes of the widow of the Honourable Roger Pegg, who was
carried home in a state of suppuration. This was the greatest triumph
of eloquence ever witnessed in our state. I cannot go through the whole
of my speech. It lasted eight hours and three quarters, and I should
have made it nine, had not all the candles gone out, and left me and
my subject in outer darkness. The reader may judge of its length from
the fact, that it was ascertained by an industrious old person, who
could not bear to be idle, that the word "Sir," occurred three hundred,
and the monosyllable "I," five hundred times—the word "principle,"
six hundred and thirty, and the word "interest," not once. Can there be
any higher proof of the purity of my motives? The next day the Banner
of Truth published my speech, of which I had given a copy beforehand,
pronouncing it at the same time superior to the best efforts of the
three great orators of antiquity, Marcus, Tullius, and Cicero.
I was now fairly launched upon the billows of immortal glory—so
said the Banner of Truth. The little state rung with my exploit, as if
it had been a second victory of New Orleans, and people began to talk
of me for Congress. The Honourable George Gregory Oakford (for I too
had become Honourable) was the luminary of the age; and his rising
importance was indicated by divers worthy persons, such as men out of
employ, or who had made a bad bankruptcy for themselves; and young
gentlemen, too idle for useful employment, and too poor to figure
without it, paying him most particular devoirs, and hanging to his
skirts, like so many cockles. All these were impelled by an instinctive
perception, such as animates the canine race, to wag their tails and
fawn, even upon the beggar who hath a bone to throw away.
But though a great man myself, there were still greater men than I
in `our town.' I mean the members of the general committees; the
nominating committees; and greatest of all, the gentlemen who give the
impulse, and govern the course of the current by a certain mysterious
influence, as inscrutable as that which gives a direction to the winds.
Though the study and experience of a whole life, has pretty well
initiated me into the depths of political alchymy, I confess I could
never fathom the obscurity of this part of the science. I could never
reach the head of the tide, though I floated on its surface so long;
nor have I ever to this day had a clear perception of the means, by
which certain dull, stupid men, often without a tolerable reputation,
and destitute of wealth, contrive to lead the people as they do, and
keep the great leaders themselves, in most abject subjection. It may
be, that the majority of mankind are wise enough to know that those who
are most on a par with them, and mix the most familiarly in their daily
concerns, whose interests are in fact identified with their own, are
their best and safest counsellors, and that thus, after all, the
popularity of a great man is derived not so much from the splendour of
his actions, as from the secret influence of very ordinary men, over
their friends and neighbours.
As the triumph of a great principle and the salvation of unborn
millions depended so materially upon the predominancy of the party to
which I had become attached, I did not consider myself above courting
these masters of the people by every means in my power. I sought them
out at their employments, talked politics with them, or rather heard
them talk, which is by much the more infallible mode, and agreed with
them whenever I could find out what they meant. I brought one of these,
an honest shoemaker, nearly to the brink of starvation, by causing him
to neglect his business from day to day, in discussing the eternal,
invariable principles, which governed toll bridges and turnpike roads.
I invited these worthy men, for worthy and well meaning men a great
many of them were, to my house, and hinted to Mrs. Hussey Bashaba
Oakford the propriety of drinking tea with their wives, socially, and
asking them in return. But Mrs. Hussey Bashaba was one of those
unreasonable women that boast of being mistress of their own houses.
She was to be sure no beauty, but she was an heiress, in perspective at
least, though as yet her only dowry had been the two hundred votes of
the ragamuffin freeholders, a dozen table and tea spoons, and a
looking-glass. But she had mighty expectations, and acted accordingly.
My wife treated the committee men with sour looks from one of the
ugliest faces in the state, and contrived so many ingenious ways to
make them uneasy, that I was surprised at her talents. If one of the
honest gentlemen by accident spilled the ashes from his pipe on the
hearth, Mrs. Bashaba would jump up extempore, seize the brush, and
exercise it with a most significant and irritable vivacity. If another
chanced to bring in a small tribute from mother Earth, upon his
independent and sovereign shoes, she would forthwith ask me, with a
peculiar emphasis, whether the scraper had been stolen from the door.
But woe to the committee man who dared, by any lapsus lingua, to
expectorate on the floor! Mrs. Hussey Bashaba would scream for the help
to come with a tub of water and a brush, and set her scrubbing away
before the good man's face. As to the good wives of the committee, they
came once, and once only. Mrs. Bashaba talked all the time about her
papa's house, factory, work people, and all that, and made such a
display of importance that they never came near us again. To one she
said, "What a pity it is you can't afford to put new panes of glass in
your broken windows!" To another, "How sorry I am, my dear Mrs.
Applepie, your husband is not rich enough to build a new house! Are you
not afraid it will fall down one of these days? For my part, I
shouldn't be able to sleep a wink in it." And to a third, "La, my dear
Mrs. Birdseye, when did you lose those two front teeth? I declare it
makes you look twenty years older." The committee men and their wives
went home all in a huff with myself and my better half.
"My dear," said I, soothingly, "you have endangered the success of a
great principle, and the salvation of unborn millions."
"The salvation of a fiddlestick!" said Mrs. Bashaba, "I can't bear
such vulgar people. Why they eat out of trenchers, and use wooden
spoons, like pigs."
"I never heard that pigs used wooden spoons," said I, innocently.
"You never heard! Huh! of what consequence is it what you have
heard? People brought up in a pigstye seldom have an ear for music,"
said Mrs. Bashaba, as she proceeded to blow the dust off the chairs and
tables with her aromatic breath.
My wife was certainly right in valuing herself on her breeding.
The untoward behaviour of Mrs. Bashaba had well nigh jeopardized the
great principle, and destroyed the hopes of posterity. A fortunate
accident, or perhaps a providential interposition, prevented the woful
catastrophe. This was the stoppage of a bank in a remote corner of the
state; but which, distant as it was, exercised a vast influence on the
affairs of distant people. This moneyed institution, having no capital,
had borrowed the stock of another moneyed institution, in the like
predicament, and secured the capital thus paid in by a similar loan of
its own stock. They then both fell to issuing bills like wildfire, and
lending money— paper money—to any person who could offer them the
ghost of a security. My worthy father-in-law, the Honourable Jupiter
Ammon Bumstead, was one of these shadows, which became a substance by
the magic operation of modern financiering. He borrowed money, built a
manufactory of coarse cottons, and a town, which he called
Bumsteadvilleton, together with a shingle palace of infinite
dimensions. The twin sister banks got on very well for a time, by
redeeming the notes of one of the sisters with the notes of the other.
The Cow and Grass Company paid the notes of the Wool and Comb Company,
like a good sister, and thus they mutually supported each other in the
journey of life. At last, however, some malicious and unreasonable
person made a demand of three hundred dollars in silver. The Cow and
Grass offered the notes of the Wool and Comb, but it would not do; the
Cow and Grass fell against the Wool and Comb, the Wool and Comb against
the establishment of Bumsteadvilleton, and the Honourable Mr. Bumstead
returned to his original shadow again. It was the old story of the boy
that bought the pig. `The butcher began to kill the ox, the ox began to
drink the water, the water to quench the fire, the fire to burn the
stick, the stick to lick the pig,' and the pig at last went to school,
but without being a whit the wiser. The President of the Cow and Grass,
who was a member of the legislature, in a paroxysm of indignation,
moved that the bills of both these moneyed institutions should be
burnt. Another member moved to strike out the word "bills," and insert
those of "presidents, cashiers, and directors." Among all the members
of our Honourable body, there was but one man—the mover of the
amendment—that was not either president or director of some bank. The
amendment was voted down unanimously; the great principle of banking
triumphed, and the salvation of unborn millions was placed upon the
eternal basis of paper money. On this occasion I made another speech,
which would have convinced every member present, but one, had they not
been convinced already. If the reader is a tolerable politician he will
know that there are two kinds of speeches—one for the people within,
the other for the people without. The latter are by far the most
This failure of the Cow and Grass, was the luckiest incident of my
life. Ninety-nine in a hundred of the people of our state, were
dependent on the banks in some way or other, either as debtors or
stockholders. My speech in favour of the great principle of banking,
gained all their hearts. The total ruin of my Honourable father-in-law,
actually, for a time, made a reasonable woman of my wife, and caused
her to treat the ladies of the committee men with vast courtesy. The
ladies of the committee men, began to pity poor Mrs. Oakford—and pity
is akin to forgiveness—and finally the consummation of all was, that
the general committee nominated me as their candidate for congress by a
majority of one—that is to say—not being able to agree, the two
parties at length settled the great principle by a throw of the dice.
My opponents threw quatre, my friends cinque, and the choice was
announced as a great triumph of principle over personal feelings and
Being thus triumphantly nominated by the general committee, and
endorsed by the sub-committees, it became the duty of the people to
vote for me upon principle, though it might happen to be against their
conscience, thus magnanimously sacrificing all private feelings and
considerations to the public good. In vain did the opposite party
exclaim against this attempt to dictate to the people; the people
turned out lustily in my favour, and voted me in a member of congress,
against their consciences, for the sake of the great principle. His
Excellency the Honourable Peleg Peshell, Esquire, supported me with all
his influence, and I him with all mine; not because it was our mutual
interest to do so, but because our interests were so dovetailed into
the great principle that it was next to impossible to separate them. In
the course of this contest, to the best of my belief, I violated my
conscience, and forgot the obligations of truth, justice, honour, and
sincerity, more than a score of times; but the Honourable Peleg, had
convinced me it was my duty as a patriot to sacrifice my duty as a man,
on all occasions when they came in conflict with each other. "The first
duty of a true patriot is to offer up his conscience on the altar of
the public good"—said the Honourable Peleg, my mentor. I confess I
winced a little, for the idea sometimes came across me, that as both
parties might possibly think themselves equally right in the great
principle, and one of them must be in error, a large portion of the
people were offering up their consciences in the wrong place. I once
propounded this doubt to the Honourable Peleg— "Pooh!" said he, "the
opposite party has no conscience; they are wrong in the great
principle, and can be right in nothing else. A person radically wrong
in political opinions, is like a man with a broken back, he can't walk
straight for the life of him." I was satisfied.
I departed for the seat of government, with six long stall-fed
speeches in my portmanteau, for I was determined to convince my
constituents at least, that they had not chosen a dummy to represent
them. I wanted to leave Mrs. Hussey Bashaba behind, but she was a
little inclined to the green-eyed monster, and determined to share my
honours. I represented only some thirty or forty thousand citizens; but
my wife represented the whole sex; it was therefore but just that the
majority should have its way, and she accompanied me to the scene of my
future glories. People who know nothing of the value of a single unit,
or even a single cipher, when placed in a particular situation, can
hardly conceive the importance of a member at the seat of government,
where a series of mutual dependence pervades the whole social system.
There is hardly a hack driver, who is not in some measure dependent on
some great man; and even the poor horses, if they could speak, would
undoubtedly proclaim their adherence to certain great fundamental
principles. The first time I went with my Bashaba to visit one of the
foreign minister's ladies, the horses stuck in the mud, and refused to
proceed. I scolded the hackman—"Plase your Honour," he was an
Irishman, and all Irishmen are patriots—"Plase your Honour, they wont
stir upon principle."
"What do you mean?" said I.
"Plase you, they have just found out that they are going to visit
the British minister, and have made up their minds never to pay him
that honour, till the Catholic question is settled to their
The horses stuck to their principles, and stuck in the mud. There
seemed some truth in what the driver said, for the moment he turned
their heads the other way, they trotted off gallantly towards home. The
instinct of animals sometimes nearly approaches to the reason of some
men. I was obliged to send for horses of a different party, or more
The first time we were invited to dinner, my wife was delighted. She
was the lady of a member, and happened to take precedence of all the
rest. She was led into the dining room by a foreign minister, with a
gold laced coat; and consumed all the next day in writing letters to
the ladies of the general committee. The next time she was not quite so
well pleased, for there was a senator's lady present, and Mrs. Bashaba
fell to the lot of an attaché. What made this the more provoking, was
that the senator's lady lived in the same hotel with us, and the
propinquity made the slight intolerable. The senator's lady was the
delighted one now, and declared the seat of government was the most
charming place in the world. There was a great coolness for several
days, on the part of Mrs. Welcome Bashaba towards the senator's lady.
The third time matters were still worse. There was a member of the
cabinet's lady present, to whom the ambassador was pledged by the rules
of etiquette; so that the senator's lady fell to the attaché, and Mrs.
Bashaba to the lot of a gentleman with no claim to distinction, but
talents and character. The senator's lady and the lady of the member
came home the best friends in the world. But the latter began to be
disgusted with the seat of government, and became quite homesick. It is
an ill wind that blows nobody good. Mrs. Bashaba having been handed
into the supper room, at a grand gala, given by a foreign minister, in
honour of his august sovereign's birth-day, by a clerk in the land
office, insisted on going home forthwith. Had it been a clerk in the
office of the secretary of state, or even any one of the departments,
it might have been borne. But a clerk in the land office! it was
impossible to get over the mortification. Fortunately an old neighbour
of mine, nearly fourscore, who had come to the seat of government, with
some two or three hundred more of my constituents to get an
appointment, was going home the very next day. Accordingly I took Mrs.
Bashaba in the vein, and sent her off before she had another chance of
being handed to dinner by a foreign minister. Previous to her departure
she exacted of me a promise to oppose the administration, and
particularly the measures of the secretary, whose wife had taken
precedence of her at the grand supper, on all occasions. I
promised—for I would have promised any thing to get rid of Mrs.
Bashaba for the season; and I have the great consolation of knowing
that both the honourable senator and myself voted against the
administration all the winter, upon the great principle of etiquette,
which is in fact the corner-stone of tyranny. Being now my own man, I
commenced gallant; flirted desperately with the married dames; and
still more desperately with the young ladies, who were delighted with
the attentions of a member. Let me warn all my readers, who are, or
expect to be members, never to bring their wives to the seat of
government. If they are handsome, they will have all the attaches, and
all the widowers pro tem. among the members, in their train; and
if they are otherwise, unless they happen to be angels outright, their
curtain lectures will be terrible. But it is time to return to my
The first day the House met, and before a Speaker was chosen, being
resolved to lose no time in convincing the world I was somebody, I rose
to make a motion and a speech on the subject of reform. "Mister
Speaker—Sir-r-r"—"Order!" cried the clerk, rattling his wooden
hammer. "Mister Speaker— Sir-r-r, I rise to"—"Sit down—the
honourable member is out of order, the house is not yet organized." An
old member on my left apprised me that as there was yet no Speaker
chosen, there could be no question debated. When the persons were
nominated for that station, I rose again, for one of my speeches I
thought would come pat to the purpose now. As soon as the Speaker was
chosen I rose again to make my great motion on the subject of
reform—"Mister Speaker—Sir-r-r-r, the republics of Greece and
Rome"—"Mr. Speaker," said an old grey headed member, I am sorry to
interrupt the honourable member from—from—somewhere— but I beg to
make a motion that we proceed to appoint a committee to wait on the
President, with information that the House is now organized, and ready
to receive any communication from him."
"Mister Speaker, sir-r-r, I feel myself under an awful
responsibility to myself, my constituents, my country, and the world,
to oppose that motion;" for I was a little nettled at this interruption.
"The motion is not debateable," replied the Speaker, mildly.
I sat down, provoked and mortified beyond measure, for I was ready
to overflow in a torrent of eloquence. The reading of the message, and
other formalities, took up the whole morning; and the house adjourned
without hearing my speech. Thus, like Titus, I lost a day; but I made
myself all the amends in my power, by speaking it that night in my
chamber to two chairs, a three-legged stool, and a chalk bust of Cicero
with a broken pedestal, which at every gesticulation I made, nodded
My next attempt at a speech on reform was quite unpremeditated. It
happened that a party of ladies came into the gallery of the house;
among them was one with whom I was engaged in a fashionable flirtation
for the season. I wished above all things to dazzle her with a speech;
for, at the seat of government, a speech is equivalent to gaining a
great victory by sea or land.
The moment I saw my belle in the gallery, the fervor of eloquence
seized me. Luckily at that blessed crisis a member sat down, after a
speech of three days, apologizing to the house that exhaustion and
fatigue prevented his going deeper into the subject. In my haste, I
unfortunately began the one of my six stall-fed speeches which of all
others least applied to the question before the house, which related to
the Cumberland road, that would be the very best road upon earth, if
speeches could keep it in repair. My speech, which was the first of my
budget I could lay hold on, was on the occupation of the territory of
I set out from the seat of government without interruption, every
now and then cocking my eye at the divinity who inspired me in the
gallery; and was puffiing and blowing about half way up the Rocky
Mountains, when a member called me to order.
"The Honourable gentleman is not speaking to the question. The
Cumberland road does not cross the Rocky Mountains."
"Let the gentleman go on," exclaimed a soft, clear, high-toned
voice, in a wicked Cervantic tone, "let the gentleman alone; he is only
making a voyage round the world, and will certainly cross the latitude
or longitude of his subject, some time or other."
This sally occasioned a good deal of merriment, and I saw the
loadstar of my eloquence showing her ivory teeth on the occasion. I
became confused; I struck in upon another of my six stall-fed speeches,
wandered from that into a third, and finally jumbled them all together
into a mass of incongruity, unutterable and inextricable. Fortunately
the Speaker, not having above thrice the patience of Job, at length
called me to order, and I obeyed. Fortunately too for me, the reporter,
who had made more great orations than all the orators of ancient or
modern times, not being able to take down my speech in short hand,
substituted one of his own, which was read by my constituents with
infinite satisfaction and improvement. Shortly after this, I made a
motion to exclude the ladies from the gallery; being convinced, from my
own experience, that they cause the effusion of more nonsense in the
house than nature ever intended men should utter.
I was at first exceedingly discouraged with my excursion to the
Rocky Mountains; but finding it made such a splendid figure in the
newspapers, I determined to take the earliest opportunity to get rid of
another of my six labours. The next torrent of my eloquence was poured
out from the summit-level of a great canal, which, involving as it did
a great principle, excited a vast deal of interest in and out of the
house. Unfortunately for me, I did not get a chance of speaking, until
the subject had been exhausted at least a score of times, in a score of
speeches. But for all this, I was resolved not to lose my labours
because others had forestalled them. Accordingly, when every other
orator had become as exhausted as the summit-levels of some of our
canals, I rose in my might, and repeated, not only all that had been
said in the house, but all that had been written out of it, for the
last fifty years. I led the house from the canal of the Red sea to the
canal of the Yellow river; from the canal of Languedoc to the canal of
Caledonia; from the canal of the Duke of Bridgewater to that of Lake
Erie: in short I did what neither Sir Francis Drake, Ferdinand
Magellan, Christopher Columbus, nor Captain Cook ever achieved; I
sailed round the world on a canal. Before I had finished one quarter of
my tour of inland navigation, more than three fourths of the members
were so fully convinced by my arguments, that one after the other left
the house, having, as they afterwards assured me, made up their minds
on the subject. This time I kept clear of the Rocky Mountains, never
quitting my canal for a moment; and there being no law against
repeating the same thing over again a hundred thousand times, I might
have spoken till doomsday, had not Mr. Speaker at length waked up, and
observed that he believed there was no quorum, and proposed an
"Never was there a more complete triumph of argument and eloquence
combined," said the Banner of Truth; "the friends of the canal were one
and all so convinced, that they did not think it worth while to stay
further argument; and its foes fell away before the thunder of his
eloquence as the walls of Jericho did at the blowing of the rams
horns." I was at first a little mortified at the idea of my speech not
appearing with an end to it in the report; but the reporter comforted
me with the assurance, that so long as a speech had a beginning, it was
of little consequence whether it came to any conclusion or not.
I now began to be talked of as a rising politician; for any man who
can get on the back of a canal or a railroad, is sure of immortality. I
became the Neptune of inland seas, a very "Triton of the minnows;" and
already began to aspire to an embassy to some one of the new republics
without any government. "He has made the canal," said a great man. "You
are mistaken," said the member with the tuneful voice and Cervantic
tones, "you are mistaken, the canal has made him." To make an end of
my congressional register: I got rid of all my speeches; besides
offering thirty-six resolutions, calling for information which the
several heads of departments assured me would require the united
labours of six hundred men, six hours in the day for six years, to
collect and arrange. In addition to all this, I made about a hundred
little extempores; drafted a bill which was passed after all the
sections had been amended so as to mean exactly the contrary of what I
intended, and which afterwards became the father of six volumes of
commentaries; and finally wound up triumphantly at the end of the
session, by striking out a "but," and inserting an "except," in a bill
for the relief of poor Amy Dardin, after a long and animated debate, in
which great talents were displayed on both sides.
Towards the latter end of the last session of my term, a great
crisis happened. The whole confederation was divided on a great
question, which involved a great fundamental principle, and it fell to
the lot of congress to decide by states, each state having a vote. It
was now indeed that I felt myself a great man, since a great question,
involving a great principle, on which depended the salvation of unborn
millions, rested upon my single voice. I was the sole representative of
my state, and while others had only the fractional part of a vote, I
had a voice potential. The other states were divided; my state had the
casting vote, and I, I alone, became a second Warwick, a king maker!
Had Mrs. Welcome Hussey Bashaba been now at the seat of government, she
would not have wanted great men to hand her in to supper. It behooved
me to reflect seriously, and to delay my decision to the last moment,
although at this distant period, I feel no hesitation in confessing
that I had made up my mind from the first, with a proviso however that
I saw no occasion to alter it afterwards. As it was, I kept my opinions
as secret as the sources of the Niger. In so doing, I acted by the
special advice of my master, his Excellency the Honourable Peleg
"I hold," said he, in one of his letters, marked `private and
confidential,' "I hold it a sound maxim in politics as well as morals,
that where a man is determined, upon principle, to pursue a certain
line of conduct, there is no obligation which ought to restrain him
from uniting his interests with his principles, and making the most of
the position in which circumstances have placed him For this purpose,
it will be wise and patriotic in you to keep your determination a
profound secret, or even affect to lean a little to the opposite side
from that you intend to unite with at last. When a vessel is at anchor,
nobody feels much solicitude about her; but a drifting boat always
brings a reward for securing it. A word to the wise, &c."
In pursuance of this advice, I affected to be undecided. I had not
made up my mind; I must consult my constituents; I should delay as
long as possible, and be governed by circumstances. Both sides beset me
with arguments; but when a man has made up his mind, mere arguments
weigh nothing. I preserved my incognito, and talked as mysteriously as
One day a confidential friend of one of the great principles—the
reader must not confound principles with principals—came to me, to
discuss the subject.
"My dear Mr. Oakford, there can be no comparison between the two
principles. You must support our principle."
"My dear sir," said I, "I have not the least hesitation in saying I
should support your principle"— Here my friend took my hand warmly,
and cried with fervor, "my dear-r-r sir-r-r"— "But"—Here he dropped
my hand suddenly— "But really, my dear friend, the question depends
so little on my single vote or my insignificant influence, that though
I mean, if I remain here, to vote on your side, my family affairs are
so pressing at home, and my wife in such a bad state of health, that I
rather think I shall ask leave of absence for the rest of the session."
A confidential conversation followed which I cannot disclose, being
under the most solemn pledge to the contrary. The result was, that I
agreed to remain and support the great principle, being satisfied by
the arguments of my friend, that the salvation of the Union and the
welfare of unborn millions depended on my single vote. The triumph of
principle was accordingly achieved by my single arm, and I returned
home to await my reward.
In due time, I was invited to preside over a department of the
government, in consequence of having so judiciously accommodated my
principle to my interest. It was now that I congratulated myself on
having sacrificed every thing to principle, and that I expected to reap
the reward of my patriotic labours in the cause of unborn millions. I
proceeded to the seat of government, and took possession of my honours.
But alas! gentle reader, from that time to the moment that I fell a
sacrifice to principle, I never knew a moment's ease. I was a pillar of
the state, and Samson with the gates of Gaza on his back was but a type
of me. It was not long before I discovered that a statesman exercises
power as an ass does, by carrying burthens; and that to be one of the
highest of the rulers, is only to become one of the lowest of slaves.
The labours and mortifications I underwent in the course of my
career of greatness, are beyond my power to describe. In the morning
when I came down stairs, I found people waiting to speak with me; I was
stopped twenty times on the way to my office, by people having
important business; and on my return to dinner, by other people, who
only wanted to say a few words, and kept me till my dinner was cold,
and my Bashaba out of all patience. If I dined out, I found a dozen
letters to read and answer before I went to bed, all on the most
important subjects; that is to say, on subjects very important to
others, and of not the least consequence to myself. The whole mass of
the good people of my state applied in a body for offices. One was a
cousin of my wife; another had written in my favour in the Banner of
Truth; a third had his eye put out at the polls, in advocating my
cause; a fourth was a grandson of a corporal of the revolution; a fifth
had once invited me to dinner; and the remaining thirty-odd thousand
brought the warmest letters of recommendation from his Excellency the
Honourable Peleg Peshell, Esquire, who was determined I should pay for
his guardianship. My whole official life furnished an exemplification
of the different light in which men view themselves, and are viewed by
others. I scarcely met with a man who was not seeking an office for
which he was particularly disqualified, or which his situation ought
not to have placed him above soliciting, or accepting when offered. A
parson wanted a commission in the army; a soldier, an appointment
requiring special knowledge of the civil law; a man who could neither
speak nor write his native language, a foreign mission; an independent
country gentleman begged a situation unworthy a broken feather
merchant, thinking perhaps, with Epaminondas, that he would confer
honour on his office, though his office might confer none on him; an
honest gentleman from the Emerald Isle, just naturalized, had great
claims on a rale republican administration, on the score of
having fought at Vinegar Hill; another aspired to a seat on the bench,
having become exceedingly well versed in criminal jurisprudence, by
sustaining several indictments with great gallantry, and coming off
with flying colours; and ten thousand at least claimed the gratitude of
the executive power, on the ground of having been chairmen or
secretaries of ward meetings, and brawling at election polls. There was
one fine fellow whose claims were irresistible; he had gained the
election for an administration constable, by managing to make one man
vote six times at the same poll. There was another fine fellow that
quite delighted me; he aspired to a principal clerkship in one of the
departments, and his only disqualification was not being able to write.
"But then you know, sir, I can make my mark, and the understrappers can
do the writing for me."
"Well, but," said I, "what will you be doing all the while others
are performing your duties?"
"Oh, I can give advice to the secretary. I am a capital hand at
Another still finer fellow, who had broke three several times, never
paid a debt in his life, and borrowed money from every body that would
lend, demanded a situation in which millions of the public money would
pass through his hands; he brought me recommendations from all his
creditors, who saw in his appointment to this office the only chance of
ever being paid. I ventured a delicate remonstrance. "My good sir,"
said he, "you know private character is not necessary in a public
I believe the only time I laughed, except at the jokes of a greater
man than myself, during the period I remained an object of envy to
millions, was on an occasion I shall never forget. I was called out of
my bed, early one cold winter morning, by a person coming on business
of the utmost consequence, and dressed myself in great haste, supposing
it might be a summons to a cabinet council. When I came into my private
office, I found a queer, long-sided man, at least six feet high, with a
little apple head, a long queue, and a face, critically round, as rosy
as a ripe cherry. He handed me a letter from his Excellency the
Honourable Peleg, recommending him particularly to my patronage. I was
a little inclined to be rude, but checked myself, remembering that I
was the servant of such men as my visiter, and that I might get the
reputation of an aristocrat, if I made any distinction between man and
"Well, my friend, what situation do you wish?"
"Why-y-y I'm not very particular; but some how or other, I think I
should like to be a minister. I don't mean of the gospel, but one of
them ministers to foreign parts."
"I'm very sorry, very sorry indeed; there is no vacancy just now.
Would not something else suit you?"
"Why-y-y," answered the apple-headed man, "I wouldn't much care if I
took a situation in one of the departments. I wouldn't much mind being
a comptroller, or an auditor, or some such thing."
"My dear sir, I'm sorry, very sorry, very sorry indeed, but it
happens unfortunately that all these situations are at present filled.
Would not you take something else?"
"My friend stroked his chin, and seemed struggling to bring down the
soarings of his high ambition to the present crisis. At last he
"Why-y-y ye-s-s; I don't care if I get a good collectorship, or
inspectorship, or surveyorship, or navy agency, or any thing of that
"Really, my good Mr. Phippenny," said I, "I regret exceedingly that
not only all these places, but every other place of consequence in the
government, is at present occupied. Pray think of something else."
He then, after some hesitation, asked for a clerkship, and finally
the place of messenger to one of the public offices. Finding no vacancy
here, he seemed in vast perplexity, and looked all round the room,
fixing his eye at length on me, and measuring my height from head to
foot. At last, putting on one of the drollest looks that ever adorned
the face of man, he said,
"Mister, you and I seem to be built pretty much alike, haven't you
some old clothes you can spare?"
"Oh, what a falling off was there!" from a foreign mission to a
suit of old clothes, which the reader may be assured I gave him with
infinite pleasure, in reward for the only honest laugh I enjoyed for
Among others whose names were sent on to me for office, was young
Brookfield, son of the worthy man whose hospitalities I had repaid by
assisting at least to lay him in his grave, a victim to the great
principle on which the salvation of unborn millions depended. I had now
an opportunity to atone for an injury, and repay benefits; but I
received at the same time a letter from his Excellency the Honourable
Peleg, recommending another person, and warning me against young
Brookfield, who belonged to the party in opposition to the great Peleg,
as well as the great principle. "The great political commandment," said
the great Peleg, "is to reward your friends and punish your enemies.
There is nothing selfish in this principle, since you do not reward
your friends and punish your enemies because they are your friends and
enemies, but because they are the friends and enemies of the great
principle on which the safety of the Union and the salvation of unborn
millions depend." What were the claims of gratitude or the atonement of
injuries to these sublime considerations? Poor Brookfield was passed
over, in favour of an adherent of the great Peleg and the great
principle. Brookfield turned his attention to a better object, and in
good time rose to respectability and independence; so that after all, I
flatter myself I was the architect of his fortune. I cannot say,
however, that he ever evinced much gratitude for my forbearance in his
I speak as if I were acting in these cases without control. But a
man living in society cannot do as he pleases at all times; a man in
high station, never. He is elbowed and restricted on all sides. He has
his equals, his superiors, his very dependents, to influence and
control his own wishes and resolves; is sometimes the slave of his
masters, sometimes of his equals, and sometimes of his slaves. There is
but one greater slave than the second man of a nation, and that is the
first man of a nation. I was no more master in my office than in my own
house, where Mrs. Bashaba managed the home department entirely, and
stood in the place of the sovereign people.
My domestic affairs, and my domestic enjoyments were, equally with
my personal independence, sacrificed to the intense labours and
anxieties of my public station. During the session of congress, I was
meted back some of my own measure, by certain watchful and sagacious
members, who moved resolution after resolution, calling for information
on certain points, from the first organization of the government to the
present time. Some of these resolutions took up the time of myself and
my clerks, for several weeks, and I took pride to myself for the clear
and able manner in which I drew up reports, which were received, not
read, laid on the table, and forgotten. The object of the honourable
member had been gained. He had made a motion; got his name in the
newspapers; and acquired among his constituents, the reputation of a
vigilant guardian of the public interests.
I had various other mortifications which none can feel or know
unless, placed in my situation. Sometimes a member would perhaps
revenge the disappointment of some object, or the refusal of some
favour, by attacking my official conduct. At another time the editor of
a newspaper, to whom I had perhaps neglected to send an advertisement,
would launch a random charge, or a thundering witticism, at my head,
and though as an individual, his good or bad report was of no sort of
consequence, still his fiat editorial consecrated the inspirations of
ignorance and folly. In short, I sometimes had the pleasure of
suspecting that nearly one half my countrymen believed me to be a
blockhead or a rogue. To say the truth, had it not been for my
perpetual recurrence to the first principles of the great Peleg, I
should sometimes have suspected that I deserved the latter distinction,
for I confess I often broke my promises, and passed over merit and
services, in favour of political influence, which the Honourable Peleg
considered synonymous with political principle.
My domestic was still less satisfactory than my public life. The
morning was a regular, "never ending, still beginning" routine of
vexatious toil. I was condemned to listen to applications it was out
of my power to comply with; to express regrets which I did not feel;
and hold out expectations which I knew would never be realized. I made
abundance of enemies, and gained no friends; I was condemned to meet
ingratitude from those on whom I conferred, and enmity from those to
whom I refused benefits. In short I was a slave to official duties,
that brought neither the rewards of a good conscience, nor remuneration
for the reproaches of a wounded one. From my office, where I sat in my
chair five or six hours, without any exercise but that of a perplexed
and irritated mind, I dragged myself home, to dress for a dinner at six
o'clock, to put on silk stockings, sit in a cold room three or four
hours, eat enormously, and get the rheumatism or dyspepsy. From thence
it was my hard fate to go to a party with Mrs. Bashaba, who entered
furiously into the dissipations of the capital, now that the station of
her husband ensured her being handed in to supper by a foreign
minister, or in default, by an attaché at least. During the daytime
that good lady was perpetually driving through the solitudes of the
streets, paying visits to ladies of distinction, at taverns, or
trundling to Georgetown, to ravage the milliners' shops. In one season,
she disabled three pair of horses, and two coachmen; one of whom became
a cripple with rheumatism, the other fell into a decline, with a cold
caught in driving her to a party five miles off, in a snow storm.
But this was not the worst. Mrs. Bashaba caught the spirit of the
place, and commenced the business of flirtation, with an attaché, whose
face resembled that of a Newfoundland dog. He was the very
personification of whiskers, and was held to be very handsome, for he
marvellously resembled Peter the wild boy. It was now that I thanked my
stars, my wife was not a beauty; for if she had been, I should have
become jealous, and she would have lost her reputation to a certainty.
As it was, I considered the devoirs of Peter the wild boy, a homage
paid to my official dignity, rather than to the attractions of Mrs.
Bashaba; and as nobody envied the attaché, there was no motive for
taking away her reputation. The happy result of these happy
coincidences, was, that I escaped the green eyed monster, and Mrs.
As I believe none of the writers on natural history have described
the race of whiskered animals, called Attaché, it may be well to
apprize my readers, that they constitute the tail of the corps
diplomatique. They are the shadows of the minister, who is the shadow
of his august master, and are, of course, the shadows of a shadow. They
must be able to cut up a dish at the ambassador's table; cut a figure
among the ladies; and cut a caper at balls. It is their important duty
to fill up cards of invitation; answer notes not diplomatic; run about
and pick up news; get at every body's secrets and keep their own;
compliment the young ladies; talk scandal with the old ones; trumpet
forth every donation of the minister to charitable societies; and put
on their embroidered coats on all proper occasions. Above all they must
understand etiquette, and sacrifice the whole decalogue to a point of
precedence. Four or five years practice in these profound mysteries
qualifies them for Secretary of Legation.
The unlearned reader must be careful not to confound etiquette with
good breeding, such as is practised among private persons. No two
things can be more different, nay, opposite to each other. Among
ordinary people, for example, when a stranger, entitled to notice and
hospitality, comes into the place, it is considered well bred, to call
on him first, and invite him to your house. Etiquette however,
prescribes a different course. The stranger must call on the resident,
indirectly solicit his notice, and thrust himself, or herself, on the
hospitalities of the person of distinction. Among well bred people, if
two persons happen to be going into a dining room together, there will
be a little contest of courtesy, not who shall get in first, but who
shall give precedence to the other. Among people of etiquette it is
exactly the reverse. The point of honour consists in maintaining
certain imaginary rights of going first, if it be only at a funeral;
and a gentleman or lady, who should lose their proper place, would not
be able to sleep for a week, without an anodyne. When I was a member of
congress, I came very near occasioning a long and bloody war, between
the United States and a foreign nation, by insulting the king of the
country, in taking the hand of a lady who happened to stand next me, to
lead her into the supper room. She had been assigned to the minister,
who immediately ordered his carriage, went home without his supper, and
penned a furious despatch to his government, which he sent off express,
by an Attaché of three whiskers. The lady never forgave my presumption.
Had I been a senator, it might have passed, but a member of the lower
House! it was too bad. Thus it will be perceived that etiquette is the
antipodes to good breeding. The former consists in asserting, the
latter in waiving, our pretensions to precedence and superiority on all
It was curious to see the independent representatives of a free
people, paying homage to the superiority of men they took every
occasion to slight in their public speeches, and complying with such
docility with the mandates of Monsieur Etiquette. The first thing they
did on arriving at the seat of government, was to hire a hack, and
drive furiously round to all the givers of balls and dinners, to leave
a card. This entitled them to an invitation to all the balls and
dinners, provided they sent in their adhesion in this manner, after
every ball and dinner; otherwise they only got an invitation to one
ball and dinner, for these things were too good to be had without
asking. For my part, while I was a member, I refused this act of
homage, which I then considered somewhat degrading, though when I
became one of the privileged few, I confess I did not find it
altogether so unreasonable. The consequence of my refusal was, that I
was cut by the whole corps diplomatique, attachés and all; dined at
home every day by myself, and escaped dyspepsy for that session at
At parties where I saw the same faces, and heard the same speeches
for a whole session, my great amusement was to observe the various
struggles of all classes, to obtain that species of distinction which
is dependent not on ourselves, but other people. I could always tell
where the principal person, the lion of rank, was stationed, by the
tide which was tending that way; and had I not known a single person in
the room, I could have pointed him or her out by that infallible
indication. Such struggles to get near enough for a speech or smile, a
nod, or a shake of the hand! Such looks of triumph when the little ones
got side by side with the great; and such burstings of self-importance
when they had the honour of walking arm in arm, with one on the next
step of the ladder above them! Every body seemed to live in the
sunshine of reflected honour, and none appeared to found their claims
to respect or consideration, on the basis of conscious worth, or
intrinsic merit. I have seen the most insignificant beings on earth,
without character or talents, acquire a temporary importance from the
mere circumstance of having by dint of a degrading perseverance
acquired the privilege of being toad-eater to a person of distinction.
Nobody could eat their supper with an appetite at the lower end of the
table; and Mrs. Welcome Bashaba always scolded the servants for a
fortnight, when she missed the glory of being handed in and out by a
Such was the life I led year after year. By the time summer came, I
was completely run down, and it took me all the rest of the year to
wind myself up again. If I went to the Springs, I was bored to death by
prosing politicians, giving their advice on the conduct of public
officers, or slily insinuating claims to honour and office. If I
visited a city where there was no such nuisance as a seat of
government, for the purpose of relaxing a little in the midst of its
gaieties, there too I was beset by wise men and wise women, talking
nothing but eternal politics, and reminding me that at such a time they
had made application for such an office, for sons, nephews, and second
cousins. If I returned to my poor little farm, there it was ten times
worse; every soul, far and near, came to ask for something, for they
all had assisted in my elevation; and like poor Acteon, I was in danger
of being torn to pieces by my own hounds. I was obliged to bow and
smile, and play the courtier, while my very soul was fretting itself to
shreds and tatters; for it is among the horrors of greatness, in a free
country at least, that it must be bought and maintained at the awful,
incalculable price of being civil to all mankind. Yet still, such is
the fascination of power, I clung to the glorious mischief, though it
was gnawing at my vitals, and destroying me by inches. I was indeed
fast declining, and it is my firm belief that a very few years would
have brought me to that great inn, where all mankind take up their last
night's lodging, had not my life been saved by a lucky change in the
great fundamental political principle, on which the salvation of unborn
The people have in all times been stigmatized with unsteadiness and
ingratitude. But to do them justice, I believe this versatility is only
the consequence of their perpetual disappointments. They are promised
great things from new rulers, which promises are never realized, and by
a natural consequence, they change from admiration to indifference,
from indifference to contempt or disgust. But, however this may be—
tempora mutanter—times change, men change, and principles change,
if I am to judge from my own experience. Even the great Peleg, my
mentor, underwent a metamorphosis. For some time a silent revolution
had been preparing and maturing in the public mind, turning on certain
great mechanical principles, connected with rail roads, canals, locks,
breakwaters, and cotton machinery. Political principles now seemed fast
verging into mechanical principles, and the machinery of state to be
almost entirely governed by spinning jennies, weaver's beams, and
topographical surveys. The revolution of principle in my native state
was brought about by a great mill dam; others turned on improving the
navigation of rivers; others on the auction system; others on coarse
woollens; and others on prohibiting the importation of vermicelli; all
fundamental political principles, on which the existence of the union
and the salvation of unborn millions depended. But the most
extraordinary change of all, was that of a great state—an imperium in
imperio—whose fundamental principle turned altogether on the
question, whether freemasons took their degrees on a red-hot gridiron
or not. This point divided the whole state, and threw the body politic
into convulsions. Committees were appointed; inquisitors authorized to
worry and harass whole communities; and constitutional principles set
at nought in the discussion of the great fundamental principle of the
gridiron. But what most strikingly proved the purity of the motives
which governed all these revolutionary bodies, in all their arguments,
contentions, and struggles, the word interest was never once uttered.
Nothing but conscience and principle was appealed to, notwithstanding
it was the opinion of many honest people, that an appeal to the
conscience and principles of the opposite party was like the lady
Rosalind swearing by her beard.
Somewhere about this period, the Honourable Peleg, who watched the
weathercock of politics as a valetudinarian does the wind, all at once
changed his principles, having, as he wrote me, discovered that the
great fundamental principle, on which depended the existence of the
union and the salvation of unborn millions, was not what he took it to
be. He brought over the Banner of Truth to his side, by sending the
worthy editor a present of the largest pumpkin that ever grew in the
state; and the Banner of Truth began forthwith to unsay all that it had
been saying for the last ten years. Never man or woman either,
unravelled an old stocking so dextrously, and in as short a time, as
the editor of the Banner of Truth unravelled and turned inside out all
the arguments he had urged in support of the old great fundamental
principle. To be prepared for the worst, however, he got a coat made,
one half homespun, the other half Regent's cloth, with a jacket one
side civil, the other military, which he wore as occasion required.
For my part, though I saw the storm coming, I determined to remain
firm to my principles, knowing, as I did full well, that it was now too
late to change to any good purpose, for my successor was already
designated. The denouement of the great farce now approached; the whole
country was convulsed— in the newspapers. I went out, and another
came in; one great principle triumphed on which depended the salvation
of unborn millions; and another great principle on which the salvation
of unborn millions, in the opinion of millions of living persons,
equally depended, went out of fashion, at least for the time being.
Will my readesr believe it? I left the seat of government, where I had
lost my health, sacrificed my domestic habits, and laboured like a
galley-slave at the oar, only to be rewarded with abuse and obloquy,
from at least one half of my countrymen; I left it with a regret, which
I can only account for upon the principle that man is born unto
trouble, and that it is in his nature to delight to fish in troubled
waters. As the City of the Desert passed away from my backward view, I
could not help reflecting, that I had peradventure been all my life
fighting shadows, for shadows; and that I was now returning to the
starting place, with nothing saved from the wreck of departed years,
but a fund of experience, which I was now almost too old to turn to
advantage. As the great copper kettle turned upside down, which deforms
one of the finest structures of the age, disappeared behind the forests
of the city, I cast a rueful glance at Mrs. Bashaba, who sat at my
side, and there met the comfortable assurance, that my retirement from
the turmoils of public life was not destined to be followed by the calm
of domestic repose.
One of the great delights of the seat of government, is the
necessity a great man labours under of spending his salary in treating
the gentlemen, who are every day finding fault with his official
conduct, to sumptuous dinners. The simplicity of our republican
institutions requires that these dinners should be as splendid as
possible, and the wines of the most rare and expensive kind. Without
these indispensable requisites, it would be almost impossible to carry
a measure, or do any thing for the benefit of posterity. Every public
functionary is expected to come to the seat of government and go away,
as we come and go out of this world, without bringing any thing with
him or taking any thing away. I remember once giving a vast dinner to
twenty or thirty members, one of whom was particularly devoted to the
wines and viands, and consumed nearly a day's salary. The next day he
made a famous speech on republican simplicity, which he concluded by
moving to reduce the enormous salaries of the great public
functionaries, whose splendid dinners, and silver forks, he described
with most edifying abhorrence. But notwithstanding the French wines,
the French cookery, and the silver forks, I had saved a few solitary
thousands, with which I intended to improve my little box at home, and
cultivate a small farm I had purchased to please one of my
constituents, who had considerable political influence.
The first time I saw the Honourable Peleg after my return, we had a
hot argument on the question, whether he or I had deserted the great
principle. It ended, as most political discussions do, in contention
and recrimination. We parted the worst friends in the world. My farm
was now my only resource. At first the perfect ease, quiet, and
selfcommand I enjoyed was intolerable. I became melancholy for want of
something to trouble me, and had it not been for Mrs. Bashaba, should
have perished for lack of contradiction. But fate seemed determined to
persecute me with a life of perfect ease. I lost Mrs. Bashaba a few
months after my retirement. The whiskered Attaché passed our
door without stopping, on his way to Boston, and she never help up her
head afterwards. Casting about for something to do, it all at once
occurred to me, that I would call the Honourable Peleg to a reckoning
on the score of his guardianship. I had the cruelty to put him in
chancery; but I shared with him the penalty of this unchristian act. I
had now enough to occupy my mind, and vex my very soul; and I here
record it as my firm opinion, that to be in chancery is worse than to
be the head of a department. I several times saw the end of my suit,
but it was like a view of those high, snowy, perpendicular summits we
behold on approaching the Andes, which the eye sees and the imagination
contemplates, but which are inaccessible to mortal tread. When I began
the suit, I was possessed of three very good things; I had money,
patience, and a great veneration for equity. Before my suit was ended,
I had neither one nor the other. But time does wonders; it can even
bring a suit in chancery to an end; and at length I got a decision in
my favour for a few thousands. But the Honourable Peleg was prepared
for me; he had assigned all his property to a bank; the bank had
hypotheticated it to an insurance company; the insurance company had
failed; the officers, directors, &c., had divided the spoil, and I
might as well have looked for an honest man among them as for my
property. Yet, strange to say, the Honourable Peleg, by sticking close
to the great political principle, still managed to preserve the
confidence of the people. He had never held a public office where he
was intrusted with the public money, without being a defaulter; he had
never been charged with the care of another's property without there
being a deficiency in the end; and he had never been president of a
bank that did not break and defraud the community. Yet still his
political principles were sound, though his moral principles were
rotten; and he was at length selected by the legislature to prepare a
code of criminal jurisprudence for the state, upon the ground, I
presume, that you set a thief to catch a thief, and that no man can be
better qualified to make laws, than he who has been long in the habit
of breaking them.
There is a certain homely unobtrusive philosophy which makes very
little figure in the works of Bolingbroke, Boethius, or any other
unfortunate statesman. It may be called philosophy perforce, and is
worth all other systems put together. I mean the capacity of the human
mind to accommodate itself to inevitable circumstances; to endure what
cannot be cured, and to make the best of a bad bargain. This was now my
consolation. I had gradually lost all hope of again coming forward in
political life; for the moment one man steps out of the shoes, another
stands ready to step into them. If we stop a moment in the great path,
along which the whole human race is pressing forward, we shall be left
behind, and can never again overtake the flood that rolls on to success
or ruin. By degrees, as this conviction familiarized itself to my
thoughts, I turned from the past to the present, and gradually yielded
to the philosophy of necessity. I felt that my peace of mind, my
health, my subsistence, depended upon exertion, and I began to exert
myself. It was at first loathsome and disagreeable for a man who had
assisted in swaying the destinies of an empire, to assist a labourer in
planting pumpkins. But I remembered that Dioclesian planted cabbages;
that Joseph the second was a great maker of red sealing wax; that Don
Carlos of Naples employed his time in shooting rabbits, and Don
Ferdinand of Spain in embroidering satin petticoats—above all, I
remembered the example of the great and perfect model of Rulers,
and his virtuous successors, who, one after another retired from the
cares of state, to cultivate their farms; to give an example to the
world, and hear themselves every day blessed from afar off, by the
voices of millions.
I have now passed almost twenty years in my humble retirement. The
world has forgotten me, and I am content to be forgotten. I can now
look calmly upon both worlds, that which I am leaving behind, and that
to which I am rapidly advancing. The last spark of vanity expired in
writing my history, that I might peradventure be remembered a little
after I am gone. But to do myself justice, I had other and higher
I have long seen, with fearful and melancholy anticipations, the
vast, and disproportioned space that politics and party feelings occupy
in the lives of my fellow-citizens, to the exclusion of other, and let
me add, nobler pursuits. I have seen the country thrown into a ferment;
the charities of life, and the bonds of benevolence, the obligations of
truth, and the ties of justice, all rent as burnt flax, and scattered
to the winds as nothing—an offering on the altar of political strife.
I have seen the most frivolous objects, and the most contemptible
offices, assuming a vast and fallacious magnitude, and exciting the
most violent outrageous struggle for their attainment, as if the
parties were contending for the empire of the world. In short, I have
seen, as I think, the finger of time pointing to that period, not far
distant I fear, when the choice of a chief magistrate will be
considered an object of greater moment, than the precepts of morality,
the obligations of religion, or the preservation of our liberties. It
cannot be disguised that the spark which lights these political
conflagrations is struck out by the violent collision of office-holders
and office-seekers; and I am aware that the experience of others weighs
little with us in balancing our own conduct and regulating our
pursuits. Still, perhaps a plain narrative of the unsatisfactory
results of so many sacrifices of moral principles, may serve to
mitigate at least the violence of those contests, which end at length
in a momentary triumph, followed by a lasting defeat. Men may learn
from my example, how mistaken is the idea, that the possession of power
leads to independence, or enables them to pursue their own will. If
there is any station in life in which we can do as we please, it will
be found much nearer the extreme of the beggar, than that of the king.
All the honourable pursuits of life are salutary, provided they are
not sought with too great avidity, and at the price of integrity and
happiness. It is moreover the bounden duty of every citizen to take a
strong interest in the conduct of public affairs, and the prosperity of
his country. But even patriotism as well as religion has its limits,
beyond which both become fanaticism. He who sacrifices those principles
of honour, justice, charity, and truth, which are essential to the
happiness of mankind here as well as hereafter, which never change, and
in which all agree, to a political principle, which is ever varying,
and about which all mankind differ, must in the end become a most
mischievous and pernicious citizen. Lastly; I have preferred to make my
drama a farce rather than a tragedy. I pretend not to any other
authority than that of experience; but I have seen enough of the world,
and of the people of the world, to know by experience, that beautiful
as wisdom is, if she would only sometimes condescend to smile, she
would be irresistible.
THE DUMB GIRL.
- Blank Page. ]
Speak thou fair words, I'll answer with my eyes; Send thou sweet
looks, I'll meet them with sweet looks; Tell me thy sorrows, I'll reply
with tears; Thy joys, I'll sympathize with dallying smiles; Thy love,
and still I'll answer with mine eyes, Using my lips only to kiss thee,
Some thirty years ago there resided on a little corner of a farm
belonging to my uncle, an aged man of the name of Angevine, an "old
continental," as he was called in the language of the times. He had
returned very poor, after having served during the whole war, and
bravely too, if his own word might be taken for it, and was permitted
by my uncle to occupy a small tenement with a garden, on a remote angle
of his estate, rent free. Angevine was a brave soldier, but rather an
idle man. His delight was to talk of the revolutionary war; and who has
a better right to talk, than a man who has lent a hand in giving
liberty to his country? I have known Angevine stop on his way to mill,
with a bushel of corn on his shoulder, and talk a full hour about the
revolutionary war, without ever thinking of putting down his bag. What
was his origin I know not, it was probably French; but I remember
whenever he got offended with my good uncle, who in truth was of the
family of Melchesideck—he used to be somewhat scurrilous on the
subject of ancestry. He held it as a maxim that a soldier was always a
gentleman; and his conduct verified his maxim, for he never worked when
he could help it, and passed most of his time in telling stories of the
revolutionary war. His revenue was his good spirits, which generally
made him a welcome intruder in all the neighbouring houses; and when
they failed in that, served to reconcile him to his disappointment. I
believe he was never serious except when he read his Bible, which he
did every day. He would walk fifteen miles to a training, for fun; got
his head frequently broken, in fun; was run over by a wagon, in fun;
was pitched down a high bank, in wrestling, for fun; had his hip put
out of joint—and once was put into jail, in fun. In short, it was
said of him that he talked more and worked less than any man in the
county; his maxim being that all the good people worked for him, and it
ran against his conscience to work for the wicked. He died as he lived,
in fun; giving his pipe to one, his tobacco box to another, his odd
knee buckles to a third; and bequeathing his testament, which he knew
by heart, to my uncle, in payment of his rent. He was a libel on all
who possess the means of being happy, yet are wretched; for he enjoyed
more pleasure, and created more mirth, than any man I ever knew, at
the very time that in the opinion of all reflecting persons, he ought
to have been miserable. In truth he had enough to make him so, besides
poverty. He had but two children, a girl and a boy; the former was
dumb, and the latter an idiot.
At the time of the old man's death, Ellee, as he was called—it was
a contraction of some name I have forgot—was about fourteen, his
sister Phoebe, about sixteen years of age. The poor boy had a heart,
though he had no head; his affections were singularly strong; his
reason but a little beyond instinct. He loved his mother because she
fed and clothed him; he loved his sister, for she was his companion,
and he seemed to have a full perception that she laboured under some
privation, which resembled his own; yet was not exactly the same. In
all times of danger, suffering, insult, or injury, he flew to his
sister for refuge, and she in time became a young lioness in his
defence. The boy was quite tractable, and could do many little things,
such as bringing water, going of errands to the neighbours, who
understood his dumb show, and weeding the garden; until one day,
whether in mischief, or from not knowing better, he plucked up a bed of
radishes for weeds. He had a singular, wild note, which he sometimes
uttered when in violent agitation, which was not unlike the low,
distant whoop of the owl, though somewhat more plaintive. His chief
delight was to go every where with his sister.
Phoebe was not born dumb, but lost her speech about the age of
fourteen, as was supposed at the time by a shock of lightning, which
paralyzed the organs of speech without affecting her hearing. Before
this happened, she had learned to read and write, and her mind had been
considerably improved at a school hard by, whither old Angevine had
sent her at his own cost, as he boasted; though truth obliges me to
confess he never paid a shilling for her schooling. At the same time,
he scouted the offers which were made to bring up his children at the
expense of the town. When Phoebe lost her speech in this unaccountable
and melancholy way, it was affecting to see her impatience at first,
her succeeding despair, and the steps by which by degrees she regained
her spirits and resumed her useful occupations. Ellee exhibited
indications of a vague, indefinite wonder and anxiety at first; but in
a few days all traces of these wore away, and he seemed unconscious
that his sister had undergone any change. Her mother, an honest,
careful, industrious woman, took it sadly to heart; but after a time,
the only effect it was observed to have upon the good woman was that
she talked twice as much as ever, I suppose to make up for the silence
of Phoebe. Angevine took to his Bible for days and weeks afterwards.
Indeed I believe he never fairly recovered the shock, although the
force of habit and constitution still caused him to exhibit the usual
indications of hilarity. He died about two years after the accident.
At sixteen, Phoebe Angevine was the prettiest girl in all the
surrounding country, as well as the most industrious. Indeed it was
observed that Ellee was better dressed, the garden in finer order, and
every thing about the house more tidy and comfortable, since the death
of the `old continental.' The overseers of the poor offered to take
charge of poor Ellee; but both mother and daughter declared that so
long as they could maintain him, he should never be a burthen to
others. This was before the poor were coaxed to become paupers, and
lured into idleness and unthrift, by the mistaken benevolence of morbid
sensibility. I thought it necessary to premise this, in order to render
the anecdote credible. I don't remember ever to have seen exactly such
a face and figure as those of Phoebe. Her hair was amazingly long,
luxuriant, and silky; of a dark brown colour, to match her eyes; and
what is very rare with our country girls, out of New England, her skin
was excessively white; but her face was all lily; there was not the
slighest tinge of the rose, except when the impulse of her heart drove
the blood into her cheeks. It is impossible to give any idea of her
features and expression; the former were rather sharp than oval, and
the latter displayed the character and impress of most intense passion,
or sensibility, or both. Never woman could better afford to lose her
tongue, for every feature of her face supplied its place. The two poles
are not more distant than was the contrast between the lowly, subdued,
and dewy eye with which she curtsied to my good old uncle, and the
flashing intensity of its rage, when any one played tricks upon the
simplicity of her brother, or laughed at his infirmity; her eyes then
did the errand of her tongue, and their language was terrible. Every
body wondered how she always kept herself so neat, for she was neatness
itself. It was partly innate delicacy, and partly personal vanity. It
was impossible to see Phoebe, without discovering at once that she knew
she was handsome, and that this was seldom absent from her thoughts.
She never passed a looking-glass without casting a glance; and
doubtless many are the crystal mirrors of the neighbourhood that could
murmur of her beauties, from the frequent opportunities she afforded
them for contemplation. There was some excuse for her, since,
independently of the singular charms of her face, her person was very
remarkable. It had no pretensions to resembling that of a fashionable
lady, for in my opinion she never wore corsets in her life; but it
possessed that singular trimness and natural grace, which the
connoiseur will not fail to discover and admire in an Indian warrior,
fresh from the hand of nature. It was as much superior to the
caricatures fabricated by fashionable milliners, as the virgin Miranda
was to the monster Caliban.
Phoebe was fond of dress; it was her foible, nay her fault; for it
was the mischievous minister to a vanity already become one of the
master passions of her bosom. At church she was always the beauty, and
the best dressed of all the country girls; and he knows little of a
country church that does not know how many hearts throb with envy, how
many tongues overflow with gall, when the owners are outdressed and
outshone by one they consider beneath them. These sometimes rudely
assailed her with sneers and inuendoes. Phoebe could not answer but
with a look that no eye that ever I have seen but hers could give. The
poor girl indeed was sadly envied and hated by the young females of her
acquaintance, because she was not only handsomer and better dressed,
but on account of her triumphs over the rustic beaus, and the speaking,
taunting glance of her eye, when she carried off the schoolmaster or
heard some stranger ask who was that neat, pretty girl. Then her ear
drank the delicious sounds, and almost made amends for the loss of the
power of answering but with her eyes. Phoebe was indeed the belle of
all the neighbourhood—a dangerous pre-eminence! for her poverty, her
idiot brother, and her own misfortune, were so many bars to any thing
beyond the gratification of a passing hour. She had many admirers; but
none that passed the usual bounds of rustic gallantry, none that sought
her for a wife. All they did was to administer to her dangerous vanity,
and awaken thoughts and anticipations dangerous to her future peace of
I went to school with Phoebe, during a period of three or four years
that I sojourned with my good uncle. The schoolmaster was a gallant
old bachelor, whose house and barn had been burned by the British,
during the revolutionary war. Having petitioned congress seventeen
years in succession, and cost the nation ten times the amount of his
losses in speeches, he at last got out of patience and out of bread,
and turned to the useful as well as honourable office of teaching the
young idea how to shoot. He was a lazy, easy-tempered man, grievously
inclined to gallantry, and novels, in the purchase of which he spent
much of his superfluities. These he lent to the young girls of the
country round, and scarcely ever visited one of them without a love
tale in his pocket, to make him welcome. I cannot say whether these
useful works had any thing to do with the matter, but certain it is,
there were a number of odd accidents happened to the young damsels of
the neighbourhood about this time. The prettiest girl in the school was
always the greatest favourite, and the prettiest girl was Phoebe, who
always had the first reading of his novels. I recollect perfectly that
such was her appetite for these high-seasoned dishes, that she would
read them in walking home from school, and often came near being run
over in the road, so completely was she occupied with the dangers of
some lone lover or imprisoned heroine. When she lost her speech, of
course she quitted school; but the gallant teacher still continued to
visit, and bring her the newest novels. These indeed did not make their
appearance so frequently at that time as they do now, when, I am
credibly informed, young ladies take a new novel every Sunday to
church, to read during the sermon. Poor Ellee used to be sometimes out
of all patience with his sister, for sitting thus whole hours without
taking notice of him, and once threw a whole set of Pamela into the
fire, to the irreparable loss of poor Phoebe and the schoolmaster.
At the age of eighteen, Phoebe had many admirers besides the
schoolmaster; her beauty attracted the young men, but the misfortunes
of herself and family restrained them within the bounds of idle
admiration and homely gallantry. But even if this had not been the
case, Phoebe was too well read in novels, to relish the devoirs of
these rustical and barbarous Corydons. Thus she grew up in the beauty
of finished womanhood, her imagination inflated with unreal pictures,
and her passions stimulated by overwrought scenes of sentiment or
sensuality, for it is difficult to draw the line now.
About this time, the only son of a neighbouring squire whose wealth
outwent the modest means of all his neighbours, not excepting my worthy
uncle, and was moreover enhanced by his official dignity, returned
home, like the prodigal son of holy writ, poor and penitent. He had in
early youth been smitten with the romantic dangers of the seas, and,
being restrained in his inclinations by his parents, especially his
mother, had run away. He had been absent six years without ever being
heard of, and the disconsolate parents long mourned him as dead. His
return was therefore hailed with tears of joy and welcome: the father
fell on his neck and wept; the mother first scolded him for running
away, and then kissed him, till he was ready to run away again. All was
joy, welcome, and curiosity; and for several days the prodigal had
nothing to do but relate his adventures. He had been to the Northwest
Coast, to the West Indies, and to the East; he had harpooned whales in
the Frozen Ocean, and caught seals in the South Sea; he had been
shipwrecked on the coast of Patagonia, where he saw giants eight feet
high; and stranded on the coast of Labrador, where he dined on raw
fish, with pigmies of not more than three; he had gone overboard with a
broken yard, and was taken up ten days after perfectly well, having
lived all the while on ropeyarns and canvass; and he was carried down
to the bottom in six fathoms, by the anchor, and could tell better than
the gentlemen who have lately taken up the biographies of dead men come
to life, exactly how a man felt when he was drowned. In short, he had
seen the Peak of Teneriffe; Mount ætna in an eruption; the Bay of
Biscay in a storm; and the sea serpent off Nahant. Of all the heroes in
a country circle, the greatest is he who can tell the most stories of
wonders of his own creation. Accordingly our hero, for such he is, was
the lion of the day, the wonder of the men, and the admiration of the
ladies, old and young. One day, after our Sindbad had been telling of
the wonders he had seen, and the perils he had encountered, the old
squire suddenly asked,
"But have you brought home any money, Walter?"
"Not a sous, sir."
"Hum!" quoth the squire.
The first Sunday after his arrival, our hero went to church, whither
the fame of his adventures had already preceded him. Every body looked
at him during the whole sermon. The old people observed how much he had
grown since he was a boy; the young ladies thought him very handsome;
and the young fellows all envied him to a man. Walter in his turn
looked about, with the air of a man unconscious of the notice he
excited, and after making the circuit of the church with his eyes, at
length rested them in evident admiration on Phoebe Angevine, who was
that day dressed in her best style, and looked as neat as a new pin.
Phoebe blushed up to the eyes, and her proud heart swelled in her
bosom. She continued to steal occasional looks at him, and always found
his eyes fixed upon her, not insolently, but with an air of entreaty to
be forgiven the liberty they were taking. Poor Ellee had come that day
to church with her, and for the first time perhaps in her life she felt
ashamed of him, and wished him away, although he always behaved himself
bettert han some people who think themselves very wise.
It was the custom of the country at the time I speak of, and I
believe is so still, for the congregation to remain during the interval
between the two services, most of them living too far off to go home
and return again in time. This interval is usually spent by the good
pastor, in making kind inquiries about the health and prosperity of the
good people; by the old men, in talking of their crops and their
prospects; by the old gossips, in talking scandal; and by the young
folks, in strolling about under the trees, or rambling through the
church yard, reading the epitaphs, and looking unutterable things. It
is here, amidst the records and memorials of mortality, the precepts of
religion, and the mouldering remains of the departed, that human
passions, even among the best of us, still will exercise their
irrepressible influence. Vanity contemplates her Sunday suit with
glances of glowing admiration; Love nourishes his idle dreams; Revenge
studies modes of gratification; and Avarice plans schemes requiring
years to realize, in the midst of a thousand breathless whispers, that
remind him of the woful uncertainty of life—that say to the aged,
Your time is but a span; to the young children, There are shorter
graves than thine in the church yard, and smaller skulls in Golgotha.
During these various occupations and amusements of the simple folks,
Phoebe was strolling about among the rest, with the gallant
schoolmaster, and Ellee, of whom she felt more ashamed every moment;
for she could not help observing, that is, she could not help every now
and then casting a sly glance at our hero, and seeing that he was
always following her with his eyes. She wished poor Ellee at home, and
the schoolmaster in his school teaching A, B, C.
"Well, what do you think of young Mr. Avery?" asked the
schoolmaster; "I don't admire him much for my part."
"Nor I," said Phoebe, blushing to the eyes, with that instinctive
spirit of deception, which marks the beginning, middle, end—no, not
the end—of love in the female bosom. There is not a greater hypocrite
in the world than a young and bashful girl, learning the first
rudiments of affection.
"Who is that beautiful girl, in the white muslin gown?" asked our
hero of a covey of rural belles, with whom he had become acquainted;
"she seems very bashful, for I have not seen her open her mouth."
The young damsels began to giggle, and titter, and exchange
significant looks, which excited the curiosity of Walter to ask an
"She's dumb," at length said one, with another suppressed giggle, in
which the others joined. They were by no means ill-natured girls, but I
know not how it was, they did not like the curiosity of our hero. Women
can't bear curiosity in others, except it relates to their own
"Dumb!" said Walter; "poor girl." Dumb, thought he, a few minutes
afterwards; so much the better; and sinking into thought, he asked no
The good Mrs. Angevine staid from church that sabbath, on account of
a rheumatism. When Phoebe came home, she asked her, according to
custom, where the text was, bidding her seek it out in the Bible.
Phoebe shook her head, and looked confused.
"What! you've forgot, you naughty girl?"
"I dare say you were asleep," said the mother.
Phoebe shook her head again.
"Then I dare say you were gaping at the young fellows," said the
Phoebe shook her head more emphatically, and with a look of
indignation. There was too much truth in this last supposition.
"Well, well," quoth the mother, "I'm sure something is going to
happen, for you never forgot the text before."
Dreams, clouds, gipseys, and ghosts, are all prophetic now-a-days,
at least in fashionable novels; and why may not this remark of the good
woman have been prophetic too? Certain it is, that something did happen
It was two or three days after this memorable prediction, that young
Walter Avery, being out shooting, and finding himself thirsty, stopped
at the house of the widow Angevine for a drink of water. The good dame
asked him in to rest himself, which invitation he accepted, and staid
almost an hour, during which time he talked to the mother, and looked
at the daughter. In going away, he shook poor Ellee by the hand, as an
excuse for doing the same to Phoebe, which he did with a certain
lingering, gentle, yet emphatic pressure, that made her blood come and
go on errands from her heart to her face. Phoebe thought of this gentle
pressure, with throbbing pulses, and poor Ellee was as proud as a
peacock at shaking hands with such a smart young gentleman.
From this time no one ever came to the house without being obliged
to shake hands with him half a dozen times. With that strange sagacity
and quickness of observation which frequently accompanies the absence
of reason, he had marked the expression of Phoebe's face, when Walter
Avery looked at and took her hand; and he made her blush often
afterwards by his grotesque imitation of his manner. "Stop in again
when you come this way," cried the old dame, highly pleased with his
particular notice of every thing she said. Walter was highly flattered,
and assured her he would come that way often. At parting, he gave
Phoebe a look that kept her awake half that night.
"Didn't I say something was going to happen last Sunday, when you
forgot the text?" said Mrs. Angevine. Phoebe was watching to see if
Walter turned to look back as he wound round an angle of the road, and
took no notice of what the good woman said; so she continued talking on
to herself, for want of somebody else to listen.
"Something has happened," thought Phoebe, with a sigh, as Walter in
turning the angle kissed his hand to her, and disappeared. The rest of
the day she was so idle that her mother scolded her soundly. The
inertness of new-born passion was gradually crawling over her, and she
more than ever regretted the destruction of Pamela, by the sacrilegious
hand of Ellee. From this time Walter was out every day shooting, and
what the old woman thought rather singular, he always grew thirsty
about the time of passing her door. "It is worth while to go a mile out
of the way to get a drink of such water," would he say, though it
tasted a little of iron, and was not the coolest in the world. While
the mother was attending to household affairs, Walter talked to Phoebe,
and she answered him with her eyes. But as there are certain little
promises and engagements, requiring more specific replies than even the
brightest eyes can give, he one day made her a present of a silver
pencil and pocket-book, in which she sometimes made her responses in
writing. Many opportunities occurred for nourishing the growing passion
of the poor girl, notwithstanding the perpetual intrusions of Ellee,
who had taken a great fancy to Walter ever since he gave him the
friendly shake of the hand, which went directly to his heart; he
seldom received such an attention except from my kind-hearted old
uncle. After this, he never met Walter without going up, making a
strange, grotesque bow, and shaking him by the hand most emphatically.
Walter sometimes wished him in the Red sea, for he interfered with his
designs, and unknowingly often proved the guardian genius of his
sister. If they sometimes stole a march upon him, and wandered along
the little river Byram, which skirted the foot of the neighbouring
hills, it was seldom but Ellee found them out, with the instinct of a
pointer; when he would come running up, with a chuckling laugh at his
cleverness, and give master Walter a cordial shake of the hand. Yet
still they had their moments of solitude and silence, such as innocent
lovers cherish as the brightest of their lives, and deceivers seize
upon for the attainment of their objects. In the wicked twilight of the
quiet woods, the purest heart sometimes swells with the boiling eddies
of a youthful fancy; and it is there that the purest person is won to
the permission of little freedoms and progressive endearments, which,
if not checked in time, are only atoned for by the tears of a whole
life. Phoebe became gradually absorbed in the all-devouring passion.
She could not relieve her heart and express her feelings in speech, and
thus they preyed upon her almost to suffocation. There is no reason to
doubt her entire conviction that Walter intended her marriage, for he
had told her so a thousand times.
Rumour, which like echo loves to abide among the rocks and dells,
where she delights to blow her horn, the signal of awakening to a
thousand blabbing tongues—rumours and scandals now began to circulate
among the neighbours, all to the disadvantage of Phoebe. It was
nonsense to suppose Walter intended to marry a dumb girl, and one so
poor as her. His father was the richest man in the county, and he was
the only son. It was impossible.
"Nobody can believe it, in their right senses," cried Mrs. Toosy.
"The girl must be a fool!" cried Mrs. Ratsbane, "or something worse."
"I thought what would come of her fine clothes and foolish books,"
cried Mrs. Dolan.
"And then the silver pencil," cried Mrs. Nolan.
"And the morocco pocket-book—people don't give these things for
nothing," cried Mrs. Dollinger.
"The mother must be mad to think of such a thing," cried Mrs.
"The girl is no better than she should be," cried Mrs. Doorise.
"She is certainly a good for nothing cretur," cried Mrs. Cackle.
"Lord have mercy upon us! what is this world coming to?" cried Mrs.
Skimpey, with upturned eyes, "it puts me in mind of—I don't know
"Heigho!" cried Mrs. Fubsy, taking a pinch of snuff, with a deep
sigh, "it puts me in mind of Joseph in Egypt."
"Well, after all, let as hope for the best," cried Mrs. Daisy.
"Amen!" answered they all, and thereupon the tea-party broke up, at
five o'clock in the afternoon. Women are in fact ill-natured toads,
especially towards each other, but they make it up in kindness to us
bachelors. There is good reason why they should be intolerant to
certain transgressions of the sex. Vice thrives apace where it carries
with it no other penalty but that denounced by the laws. It is the
inquest, the censure, the terrible verdict of the society in which we
live and move and have our very being, that constitutes the severest
punishment; and it behooves women to be inflexible in visiting sins,
that if they were to become common, would degrade them from divinities
into slaves—from the chosen companions of man to the abject ministers
of his pleasures. As yet, however, the censures of our tea-party were
premature. Phoebe was innocent, though on the brink of a precipice.
At length Mrs. Ratsbane thought it her duty, as a neighbour and a
Christian, to open the whole matter to the mother of our hero, who
forthwith reported it to the Squire. Not that she thought or meant he
should take any steps in the affair; she was a remarkable, a very
remarkable woman, such a woman as we doubt if the world ever produced
before or ever will again; for it was her maxim, that as women could
have no wills when they died, it was but fair they should have their
wills all the rest of their lives. Never woman stuck closer to her
favourite maxim, as the Justice, were he living, could testify. The
name of this puissant justice was Hezekiah Lord Avery, but his
neighbours usually called him Lord Avery, a name which I shall adopt in
order to give dignity to my story. It is very seldom one gets so good
an opportunity of ennobling one's pages. His lordship was a silent man
in the presence of his wife, but a great talker every where else,
especially when sitting as a magistrate, at which times he would never
suffer any body to speak a word but himself; for such was his
astonishing sagacity that he always knew what a client was going to say
before he opened his mouth. The only man that ever got the
better of him, was a little pestilent lawyer of the township, who once
spoke eight hours on a point of law, which, though it had nothing to do
with the case, involved a great principle; whereupon the people sent
him to Congress. Lord Avery was a man of great substance; partly
derived from his father, and partly of his own acquisition; for he was
what is called a lucky man. If there happened a drought all over the
country that raised the price of wheat, Lord Avery was sure to have a
redundant harvest; if apples were scarce, his orchards groaned with
their product; if he sold any thing it was sure to fall in price, and
if he bought it was as certain to rise. In short, he was the Midas of
modern times, and even his blunders turned to gold. He had a neighbour
his exact opposite; a sensible, calculating man, who was always giving
his advice to his lordship, but without effect. This worthy but
unfortunate man never undertook any thing without the most mature
deliberation and consulting every body. One year, observing all his
neighbours were planting a more than usual quantity of corn, he sagely
concluded that there would be a glut in the market, and planted great
fields of potatoes. About harvest time the news of a failure of crops
in Europe came, and doubled the price of corn, while the good man's
potatoes stood stock still. Lord Avery had gone on without caring a
straw about what his neighbours were doing, and reaped a swinging
harvest. The calculator was obliged to buy corn of his lordship, who
took occasion to crack a joke on his foresight.
"An ounce of luck is worth a pound of understanding," replied the
It is well it was, for his lordship had plenty of one and very
little of the other.
Lord Avery loved his son Walter for two especial reasons; he was his
only son, and he told the most entertaining stories in the world. Her
ladyship immediately, on receiving the information from Mrs. Ratsbane,
sought her lord, and poured it all into his ear, with additions.
"I will"—quoth Lord Avery in a passion.
"You will!" cried her ladyship, contemptuously, "your will is
in the cherry-tree."
"Well, well, it is my opinion," said he, perfectly cool.
"Your opinion! how often have I told you, you have no opinion of
"No opinion of my own—a justice have no opinion of his own!"
"Well, then, I think"—
"Think! how often have I told you there is no use in your thinking?"
"Not much!" thought his lordship adding,
"Well then, my dear, I say—that is, I think— that is, I am of
opinion—my dear, what is your opinion of the matter?"
"My opinion is, that you had better say nothing on the subject."
"What did you come and tell me of it for?" asked his lordship, a
There is a pleasant story, that the secret of Midas having asses
ears, was finally discovered by his barber, who, unable to contain
himself, at length communicated it to the earth, whence soon after
sprung up certain reeds, that whispered it to the four winds, which
blabbed it all over the world. Her ladyship had never heard this story,
but told hers to his lordship for the same reason the barber whispered
his to the earth. She wanted somebody to listen, not talk to her.
"What did I tell it to you for;" at length replied her ladyship,
after a puzzling pause, "are you not his father?"
"I wish I was his mother!" quoth his lordship.
"If you were you'd be twice the man you are at present," retorted
her ladyship. "But what do you mean to do?" Her ladyship always asked
his advice, while she as invariably took by the rule of contrary.
"Why, I mean to disinherit him, if"—said his lordship, pompously.
"You disinherit him! you shall do no such thing!"
"Why, then, I'll make him marry the girl."
"Marry her!" screamed her ladyship, "why the creature is dumb!"
"Hum!" said Lord Avery, "I don't think that any mighty objection."
"Her brother is an idiot."
"Poor fellow, I'm sorry for him."
"Her mother is a fool."
"There are plenty to keep her in countenance."
"You're enough to provoke a saint."
"How should you know?" quoth Lord Avery, whose mind was wandering a
little from the subject. Her ladyship insisted this was as much as
telling her she was no saint, and thereupon made her exit in
hysterics. And thus the consultation ended.
The next time Lord Avery saw his son, he questioned him on the
subject of Phoebe, and received his solemn assurance of her innocence.
The good man believed him, but the lady maintained its impossibility.
"Why, how do you know it is impossible?" said his lordship.
"By experience,"—answered the lady.
"Hum,"—quoth his lordship.
Her ladyship finding herself in a dilemma, made her retreat, as
usual, and fell into hysterics.
"Walter," said his lordship, who talked like an orator, in the
absence of his wife, "Walter, you must not think of marrying this poor
"I don't mean to," said Walter, with a sly look.
"Ah! you wicked dog!" quoth his lordship— "but mind you don't make
a fool of yourself."
"Never fear, I only mean to make a fool of the girl."
"Ah! Walter, you're a chip of the old block"— said his lordship,
complacently. "But I'm glad to find you don't mean to disgrace your
That worthy and gallant bachelor, the schoolmaster, came to caution
Phoebe, and spoke like an oracle of the improbability that the only son
of Lord Avery, should marry, or be permitted to marry the daughter of
an `old continental,' in her situation. He then went away, but being
moved by her tears, left with her a new novel, in which the rustic
heroine becomes a duchess. Phoebe wept for an hour after he went away,
at the end of which she took up the book, and soon lost herself in the
extravagancies of sentiment and fiction.
Matters went forward for some time after this in the usual way; the
lovers took long walks together, and the neighbourhood held long talks.
Her ladyship scolded, and his lordship very discreetly held his peace
at home, consoling himself by making as much noise as possible abroad.
All of a sudden however, Phoebe became very sad; and was observed to
weep bitterly whenever Walter came to see her, which was not now as
often as usual. She refused any more to accompany him in walks through
the wood, or along the banks of the Byram, and he would go away in a
passion, threatening never to see her more. Poor Ellee watched her, as
a faithful dog watches the looks of his master, and it was apparent
that he could see she was unhappy, though he only remotely comprehended
the cause. He no longer however, shook hands with Walter, and when he
went away, leaving Phoebe in tears, would sit down by her side, take
hold of her hand, kiss it, and utter his mournful music. He never shed
tears, for nature, though she had given him feelings, had denied him
the means of expressing them except by gestures and moanings. It was an
aching sight to see these two poor bereaved beings, thus suffering
together, without the power of alleviating their sorrows, except by the
silent sympathy of expressive actions and speaking looks. This sympathy
was not shared by the mother, whom age and toil had rendered callous
to all the ills of life, except poverty and sickness. If she took
particular notice of Phoebe, it was to flout her for her idleness, or
sneer at her grand lover; for the hints and tales of the neighbours had
soured her mind towards her daughter, and infected her with strange
One day Phoebe received a little billet, and shortly afterwards,
having contrived to evade the notice of Ellee, was seen to bend her
course towards a little retired spot, distant from any habitation. It
was here she had often met Walter, and while leaning on his bosom
tasted the joys of an innocent love, ripening into an all devouring
flame. A high rock gloomed over the river's bank as it whirled
violently round a sharp angle, deep and turbid. Within the angle, and
close under the side of the rock, was a little greensward, shadowed by
lofty sycamores, and shut in on all sides by the perpendicular rock,
the mountain in the rear, and the deep brawling torrent in front. It
was a scene made for love, and it might easily be consecrated to a more
malignant passion. Ellee followed his sister, as usual when he found
she was gone, and after an absence of perhaps two hours, came home
without her, in a state of terrible agitation. He motioned with his
hands; he ran to and fro; pointed to the spot I have described, and
attempted to drag his mother violently towards it, gnashing his teeth
and actually foaming at the mouth all the while. At length he sat down
in a corner, and commenced that strange melancholy moaning, which was
the only sound he ever uttered. Labour and poverty harden the heart.
The mother thought strange of this behaviour at first; but she was busy
at work, and her mind became gradually drawn off from the poor boy.
My uncle and myself happened to come riding by at this moment, and
no sooner did Ellee perceive us, than he darted out, seized my uncle's
bridle, and pointing first to the house, then to the river, with
convulsive rapidity, concluded his dumb show by the customary moan.
Assured that something uncommon had taken place, we alighted, and went
into the house, where we found the old woman, so busily at work that
she had not been aware of our coming. Ellee followed us in, hung upon
our steps, watched every movement, and fixed so intense an eye upon the
motion of our lips, that it seemed as if he intended to translate their
very movements. On inquiring what was the matter the good woman related
all she knew; but did not seem to think any thing extraordinary had
happened. It was otherwise with my uncle and myself, who determined to
go under the guidance of Ellee, and see what had become of his sister.
As soon as we mounted our horses, and turned them towards the river,
the idiot boy seemed to understand our object. He again commenced his
furious gesticulations; gnashed his teeth, foamed at the mouth, and
sinking as usual into a low and plaintive quaver, ran with all his
might towards the river, only stopping at times to see if we were
coming, and beckoning us eagerly to follow.
It was now verging towards the sunset of a long day in the month of
June. Ellee led us to the place where the river rolled rapidly around
the sharp angle of the rock, and there again began the most violent
course of gesticulation. He pointed to the roots of an old branching
sycamore, then twined his arms about my body and kissed me, then wrung
his hands, and imitated weeping as well as he could, and finally ran
moaniug to the river's bank, and making as if he would cast himself in,
howled most piteously, while he pointed to the deep current rolling
past. These significant actions naturally awakened in our minds the
most unpleasant suspicions. We examined the spot with the most minute
attention. On the bark of the old tree appeared the initials P. A. and
W. A. apparently but just cut, and at the root, the grass seemed to us
to exhibit traces of two persons having been sitting there very lately,
side by side. A little blood was sprinkled on one of the projecting
roots of the tree, and a piece of paper was picked up crumpled together
and stained with blood. On examining it more particularly, there were
found upon it, written with a pencil, some words in the handwriting as
it afterwards appeared, of Walter Avery, that seemed to form part of an
invitation to meet him somewhere or other. While this scrutiny was
going on, poor Ellee accompanied us with the most intense interest, and
watched our looks, apparently to learn the impression made on our
minds by these circumstances. By this time it was growing dark, and we
quitted the place, notwithstanding the violent opposition of Ellee,
with a determination to pursue the investigation next morning, if on
inquiry it was found Phoebe had not returned. She did not return that
night, nor did she make her appearance the next morning. We accordingly
again proceeded to the spot where Ellee had before directed us,
accompanied by several of the neighbours, and continued our
examination. Nothing more was observed that could throw light on the
affair, though the river was closely and particularly investigated for
some miles below. The general conclusion was that she had been made
away with in some way or other, and suspicion fell strongly upon Walter
Avery. The notoriety of his courtship to Phoebe, the circumstance of
the fragment of the note, and the fact that he had been seen going
towards the spot where the fragment was found, all combined, seemed to
bring the fact of murder, if not home to him, yet close to his door.
The conduct of Ellee corroborated these suspicions. Whenever by any
chance he encountered Walter, his rage was ungovernable; he would
assail him violently with stones, or when occasion offered, lay hold of
him with all the violence of infuriate madness, tearing his clothes,
biting, scratching, kicking, and foaming at the mouth, with a
bitterness of rage and antipathy he never exhibited towards any other
person. Rumours gathered strength every day; each one compared notes,
and each had some circumstance of his own to communicate, that added to
the mass of presumptions. A legal inquiry was at length instituted, but
the dumb testimony of Ellee was so vague and unsatisfactory that the
grand jury, while in their hearts they believed Walter guilty, declined
to find an indictment. Yet in the eyes of all the neighbourhood, Walter
stood convicted as a murderer and seducer. He escaped the judgment of
the law, but the verdict of society condemned him. He stood a marked
man, avoided by all, feared and hated by all; in the midst of society
he was alone, and he sought to be alone. It seemed as if he did not
like to look in the face of any human being, and the quick apprehension
with which he turned his eye, when it met the glance of another
appeared to indicate that he feared they might behold the reflection of
his crime in the mirror of his soul.
Time passed on, carrying as usual on the bosom of his mighty stream,
the wrecks of men and things.
The old Lord, who never since the absence of Phoebe, had once called
Walter `a chip of the old block,' disappeared from this world in the
fullness of years. His good fortune followed him to the last, for he
sent for a physician who could not come, and thereby escaped the
persecutions of the seven sciences, and died of the disease instead of
the doctor. His wife soon followed; for it would seem that the lives
of old people who have lived together a long while, become intertwined
with each other. Too weak, as it were, for self-support, they lean upon
each other in the down-hill course, and like Jack and Gill, when one
falls, the other comes `tumbling after.' About the same time, or
shortly after, for my memory is now grown somewhat indistinct, the
mother of Phoebe likewise departed this life, and poor Ellee was taken
to my uncle's house, where he remained the rest of his days, exhibiting
in his profound devotion to his benefactor, a libel on human reason,
which ought to hide its head in shame, when told that dogs and idiots
transcend it in gratitude. He died of a sort of premature old age about
three years subsequently.
Walter Avery, the worthy young squire, after the lapse of several
years of gloomy retirement, married a woman, who thought his wealth a
counterpoise to all his other delinquencies. They both lived to repent
this union. He was a misanthrope, and she a shrew. The days of Walter
were days of bitterness, his nights were nights of horror. It seemed as
if guilt had unmanned him entirely. He was afraid to be alone in the
dark; the rattling of the shutters made him start; the howling of the
winds, the rolling of the thunder, every shooting star, and every
ordinary phenomenon of nature seemed to him the menacings of heaven's
wrath, the forerunners of something dreadful. He became the slave of
conscience and superstition combined, and never knew the blessings of
a night of balmy rest. Awake, he lay perspiring in vague indefinite
horrors; and sleeping, he rolled from side to side, muttering
unintelligible words, and moans that seemed to rend his very vitals.
Guilt and remorse are the parents of superstition. Walter became a
believer in dreams; as if the gracious Being, whose attribute is truth,
would condescend to convey his intimations through what, ninety-nine
times in a hundred, is only the medium of irreconcilable falsehoods and
contradictory absurdities. The impression uppermost in his mind, was
his crime; the figure of Phoebe was ever present to his waking hours;
what wonder then if it haunted his dreams? Some little coincidences
served to frighten him into a belief that they were more than
accidental; and he gradually became a victim to the most abject
superstition. In the gloom and silence of night, a thousand fantastic
illusions preyed upon his guilty soul; and when he shut his eyes, a
perpetual phantasmagoria of shapeless monsters danced before him,
grinning in horrid deformity unlike to any human form, or wearing the
well remembered visage of Phoebe, sometimes pale, sad, and deathlike,
at others distorted by the most malignant and diabolical passions. By
degrees, as his mind and body became gradually weakened by being thus
perpetually assailed, a firm conviction fastened itself on his
imagination, that this besetting phantasy was a malignant fiend,
empowered by a just Providence to assume the shape of his victim, to
punish him for his crime. At length his wife died; he never had any
children by her; and that night the figure of Phoebe appeared to him as
usual, pointing to a leaf in the pocket-book he had given her, which
bore these words: "You shall see me once more."
Not long after this event, he was sitting on his piazza in the
summer twilight, drinking the very dregs of misery, when he was roused
by a little boy, about six or eight years old, who stood weeping before
"What do you want, sir?" cried Walter, with the impatience common to
his state of mind.
"I want my mother," answered the boy, weeping bitterly.
"You fool! I am not your mother. She is not here."
"I know it, sir; but she sent me to you."
"For what, boy?"
"To bring you a letter and some things, sir," said the boy, handing
him at the same time a soiled note.
Walter opened the note. It contained only two words: "Your son." And
it was signed "Phoebe Angevine."
Walter was half insensible for a moment. At length seizing the boy's
hand, he asked eagerly, when and where he got that letter.
"My mother gave it me this morning," said the child.
"Oh God!" cried Walter; "I am not then a murderer." And his hard
heart melted for once into gratitude to Heaven. His next impulse was to
catch the boy's hand, and study his face, where he saw, as he thought,
the sparkling eye and glossy ringlets of his ruined mother; and he
hugged him in his arms, and wept delicious tears. The boy did not
altogether decline these endearments, but seemed hardly to understand
"I am thy father," said Walter, at length.
"What is a father?" said the boy. "Is it any thing like my mother?"
"Not much," answered the other, and hid his face with his hands.
"No," said the boy, `I might have known that; my mother never spoke
to me—she only kissed me; but I knew what she meant. Oh, I had almost
forgot; she told me with her fingers to give you these." And he handed
a little bundle.
Walter opened it. It contained the silver pencilcase and little
pocket-book he had given to Phoebe.
"Enough," said he, "come in to thy father's home;" and he led him by
the hand into his house.
That evening he questioned the boy closely as to where and how he
had lived, and where his mother had left him in the morning; for now he
was determined to seek her, bring her to his home, and make her all the
amends in his power.
"You will find it all there," answered the boy, pointing to the
pocket-book. On opening it, he found it was almost filled with
writing, some of it nearly illegible.
"I am hungry and sleepy," said the boy.
Walter had his supper brought him, which he ate voraciously; and
being placed in Walter's bed, he fell into such a sweet and balmy sleep
as that bed had not witnessed for many a year.
Walter then proceeded to make out, as well as he could, the contents
of the pocket-book. It was a wretched scrawl, full of details of
misery. Connected together, and in our own words, it was as follows:
It seems that on the day Phoebe disappeared, she had arrived at the
place he appointed to meet her some time before him, and had passed the
interval in carving their initials on the bark of the old sycamore. In
doing this, she cut her finger, and wrapped up the wound in a piece of
the note he had sent her, requesting a meeting. When he came, she had,
in every way she could make herself understood, pressed him to make her
amends for the shame he had brought upon her. To all these he had
replied only by lascivious toyings, and attempts to obtain new favours.
Indignant at this, the poor girl was running away, when he seized her,
just on the borders of the rapid river. A struggle ensued; and Phoebe
at length, through rage and despair, threw herself into the stream,
just as Ellee, who had as usual followed her, came up, and forgetting
in his rage the situation of his sister, furiously assailed Walter,
and prevented him from affording her any assistance. She floated down
the stream, kept up by her clothes and the force of the current, till
she became entangled in the thick boughs of a tuft of dwarf willows,
that, as is usual with this kind of tree, bent down and floated on the
surface of the water. Seizing upon these, she drew herself to the bank,
got out of the water, and darted into the thick wood without being
perceived. It was then that, smarting under the recollection of
Walter's insulting behaviour, and the anticipation of certain disgrace
and exposure, she formed the resolution never to return home again.
Accordingly, she crossed the mountain, which bordered the river, and
became an outcast and a wanderer.
Her infirmity of speech proved her best friend among the strangers
at a distance with whom she sojourned. She was treated with kindness,
as one on whom the hand of Providence had inflicted the sorest evils;
and she made herself useful by her habits of industry. At this time
news did not travel as fast as now; for there were few readers, and
fewer newspapers to trumpet forth murders and accidents of flood and
field. She remained here accordingly without seeing or hearing any
inquirers or inquiries after her, and without knowing what was passing
at home. When her child was born, they wished to take it away, and
place it at nurse in a poorhouse; but she would not consent. She nursed
it and brought it up, without being a burthen to any living soul. Thus
she continued on, till one day, as chance would have it, a person came
that way, who lived in her neighbourhood, and knew her at once. From
him she learned all I have been relating, up to the period in which
Walter's wife died. She took her resolution at once, and departed from
her asylum with her child. On arriving in the vicinity of Walter's
habitation, she placed herself in a situation where she would not be
observed, and instructing the boy what to do, embraced him with tears,
and forced him from her much against his will. She waited to see her
son received into his father's arms, and taken to his home, and then
disappeared from the knowledge of all, completely eluding the inquiries
of Walter. On the last page of the pocket-book was written, "You shall
see me once more." Strange, thought Walter, the very words of my dream!
The coincidence was singular; but where is the wonder that one dream
out of a whole life should present some resemblance to a reality?
Walter Avery had paid the full penalty of his crime, in the misery
of seven long years. He now enjoyed comparative ease, although he
never, to the latest period of his life, could cast off the terrors of
darkness and the leaden chains of superstition. Time swept on, and the
boy Walter grew up towards manhood, giving promise of becoming as
handsome as his mother, and a better man than his father. At length
Walter took sick, and lay on his death-bed. It was just in the
twilight of the evening, when his son was alone with him in the room. A
female figure came quietly in, and sat down by the bedside.
"Who's that?" asked Walter, in a weak whisper.
"It is my mother!" cried the boy, starting up and kissing her
"She said she would come and see me once more," thought Walter. "It
is for the last time; now I know that I shall die." And he lay for a
while almost insensible. At length he requested his son to raise him.
"Phoebe," said he, "can you forgive me?"
Phoebe pointed to the boy; then placed her hand on her heart; and
raising her still beautiful eyes towards heaven, leant down and kissed
Walter seemed endowed with new life.
"Send for Doctor Townley—quick—quick!" said he.
"You mean Doctor Barley," said his son.
"No, no; I mean Parson Townley," answered he; "run, run!"
"He wishes the doctor to pray with him," thought Phoebe, and
motioned her son to obey. In the course of half an hour the clergyman
"Doctor," cried Walter, "I sent for you to marry me." "He is
delirious, poor man," observed the clergyman; "he will be wedded to
none but the winding-sheet and the worm, poor soul."
"Come, come; there is no time to be lost."
"Where is the bride?" said the clergyman, willing to soothe him.
"There," answered Walter; "the mother of that boy."
"Indeed!" cried the good man; "then he is not mad. I am ready, Mr.
Avery; come hither, Phoebe; I did not know you; give me your hand."
Phoebe hung back, and shook her head, with determined opposition.
"For the sake of thy son."
Still she refused her hand.
"For the sake of the father, then. Would you refuse him the
opportunity of making his peace with Heaven, by atoning his injuries to
Phoebe bowed her head with reverence, and gave the clergyman her
hand. He placed it within that of the sick man, and went through with
"May God reward you for this act of justice," said the clergyman.
"May God forgive me," replied Walter.
Two weeks afterwards Phoebe was a widow.
"Well, for my part," said Mrs. Fubsy, "I sha'n't visit her."
"Nor I," said Mrs. Cluckey.
"Nor I," said Mrs. Skimpey.
"Nor I," said Mrs. Ratsbane.
Yet they all went to see Phoebe in the course of a fortnight, and
all declared she was one of the most agreeable creatures in the world.
The truth is, our heroine was an excellent listener, which, in this
talking republic of ours, is better than the eloquence of a Patrick
Henry, a Randolph, or a Clay.